Local and national media cover CSAG news conference at County Operations Center in Kearny Mesa.
Media gather for a press conference in San Diego.

By Harvey Radin

Have you noticed newsmakers sidestepping the media more than usual? Spokespersons for businesses and organizations are declining to comment, they’re not returning reporters’ calls, they can’t be reached.

When, for example, CBS This Morning earlier this year reached out to Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner for comment about the FCC delaying new Internet privacy rules that were due to take effect in the United States, the three companies “did not respond to our request for comment,” said a senior national correspondent for CBS News.

The German government declined to comment in a Reuters story about “the London Stock Exchange all but ending a planned merger with Deutsche Boerse…”

Remember when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to comment on Deflategate?

And just recently, a Wells Fargo Bank spokesperson declined to comment in stories in the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle reporting that top executives had taken “home lavish sums last year” while the bank’s fake accounts scandal was unfolding. The bank had opened as many as 2 million accounts without customers’ consent.

So how come we’re hearing less and less more and more? Is it fear? Paranoia? Well, a good number of spokespersons likely have risk aversion in their DNA. That’s not surprising because, you know, when brand image, reputation and public opinion of a business or an organization rest on a spokesperson’s words, there’s bound to be some fear and paranoia.

Reporters, meanwhile, need factual information for their stories. So, like boxers in the ring, spokespersons and reporters tend to bob and weave around each other. Sometimes there’s a meeting of minds and information in stories is solid and informative. But sadly this isn’t always the case, especially when spokespersons, trying to shape communication and opinion, give reporters worked over, filtered information.

In other words, gobbledygook. Or when spokespersons avoid the media by declining to comment, that’s concerning. Especially now, when we could all use solid information about current events.


Harvey Radin is a California-based public relations consultant who frequently writes articles about public opinion and issues impacting business and government. His articles have appeared in American Banker, Business Insider and regional newspapers.