My friend Mark Sutter, editor of the Triad Business Journal, speaks truth about “press conferences.”
Without fail, these announcements are ill-timed, ill-planned, ill-conceived and don’t serve the intended purpose, which one would suppose is to spread the word as widely as possible via the media. Instead, they have become part-political opportunity, part-ego stroke for the company expanding. In short, a dog-and-pony show on the taxpayer’s dime. “Press” conference? Hardly. Trust me when I say that few in the press ever feel it is done for their benefit.
Specifically, Mark is talking about economic development announcements, but I will extend it to include 90% of all press conferences in his comment. (The other 10% are those in which the press doesn’t already know the announcement. Think: the police chief announcing an arrest in a triple ax murder, John Edwards talking about his trial or me winning the $640 million lottery.)
As Mark noted, the news is often old news by the time the press conference is held. When the news is good, government officials are like gossips trying not to tell a secret. And they’re not very good at it. Meanwhile, reporters are pretty good at what they do.
In most cases, the news conference does two things. It strokes the company and the local elected officials. It allows television news to get video to go with their news reports. But reporters for TV and newspapers don’t need it. And the public officials don’t really want to answer questions anyway.
What would happen if no journalist attended the governor’s news conference tomorrow? Nothing. The N&R has already broken the news of the announcement and the local TV stations have reported it. Won’t happen, though. Reporters will be there to dutifully record what happens, even though their readers and viewers already know it.