BALTIMORE: Gov. Robert Ehrlich's (R-MD) decision to ban state offices from speaking to two Baltimore Sun journalists has drawn criticism from some PR professionals.
Kyle Neiderpruem, VP of Hirons & Co. Communications and former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists, noted that Ehrlich's response is the wrong way to react to dissatisfaction with the press.
"I think anyone who's been in Journalism 101 or PR 101 would know that this is not a route you'd want to take. This probably [needs] some long-term damage control for him," she said.
Ehrlich's office sent an e-mail to 19 state agencies banning them from speaking to state bureau chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker. It cited "serial inaccuracies" in the journalists' articles.
In response, the newspaper has filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Ehrlich, saying the ban has an effect on The Sun's right to free expression.
Tim Franklin, editor of The Sun, said lawyers for both sides met Wednesday.
He added that the governor had refused to sit down and talk about the "volumes of fabrication" he alleged. But Franklin noted that he hoped the case would be resolved out of court.
Franklin went on to emphasize that any concerns with the media should be addressed in a timely matter. "The key is to deal with it right away and not let it accumulate," he said.
"They'd run the risk of looking weak," he added. "Better to build bridges than put up walls."
The governor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.
"I don't know where his media relations people are," Neiderpruem said. "You have to keep the lines of communications open at all times. ... You can't shut the door at any time because then it all falls apart."
For PR professionals looking to address their issues with media coverage, there is a chain of command to follow. "You start at the first level and have a discussion with the reporter," Neiderpruem said. "You make your case, they make their case, and you have a discussion."
If that doesn't work, she said, the next step is to go up the ranks at the publication until a satisfactory answer is obtained.
Harry Bosk, president of Bosk Communications, said he is concerned that Ehrlich's actions strengthen stereotypes about the media.
"I've met enough businesspeople that don't trust reporters and think the media is out to get you," he said. "This is going to reinforce that in their heads. To me, that's alarming."