Last week, Fort Smith was hit hard by the news that Whirlpool was closing its refrigerator factory, putting 1,000 employees out of work. An analysis in Columbia Journalism Review‘s Audit on the Business Press criticizes the local newspaper’s coverage of the news (via Arkansas Times):
So how does the local paper, the Southwest Times Record, cover the exit of one of its largest employers? With stories that read like they were written by Whirlpool’s PR department. (…)
The Times Record gives Whirlpool’s top flack the second, third, fourth, and fifth paragraphs, and then gives seven of the remaining eight paragraphs to rewriting the press release. Not one worker is quoted in the story.
“Flack-driven” coverage, as CJR’s Ryan Chittum puts it, is a common occurrence in business reporting. The analysis is well worth reading.