Publishing a business newspaper is a major responsibility. The work also can be fun, exhilarating, rewarding and occasionally frustrating. I share the following with you simply to try to enhance general understanding as to why we publish certain stories, and what reactions then arise as a result.
First and foremost, our role is to report news, gather industry data, serve as an independent watchdog, offer opinions, and create a forum that stimulates dialogue and encourages idea sharing. We are happy to receive story leads from anyone, anywhere, any time. Of course, we need to consider the source of that information, take into account any vested interests that might be at play, and always always independently verify the legitimacy and accuracy of such leads before ever publishing any stories based on them.
It's common for someone to pass along unflattering rumors about a competitor, in the hope we will publish it. We understand the motivation, and as such we recognize the need to do our homework rigorously. But we also know that even if a source has a vested interest, the story still may be true and newsworthy.
This is where it can get sticky. One of today's more popular sports is fanning the flames about who is struggling financially. One perceived measure of fiscal health, especially among materials and machinery suppliers, will be the position a company takes or doesn't take at this summer's big NPE show in Chicago.
So the games have already begun, with sources telling us that company X or Y is pulling out of the show, cutting staff, or both. A minor player dropping a 10-foot booth at NPE hardly merits coverage. But a major firm that changes its plans or strategy can be significant. And you can be sure it is cause for much competitive interest. Witness the Feb. 12 announcement by Japanese injection press maker Nissei America Inc. that it has decided not to exhibit at NPE, despite having reserved and paid for booth space. It quickly became one of the most-read stories on our Web site.
Vigorous whispering campaigns continue. If and when we verify specific information and publish it, some will be angry at us for reporting it at all, and dissing the show.
Let's be clear about one thing. We hope NPE is very successful for your sake and ours. Certainly, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., the show's owner and organizer, has been creative in trying new tactics to attract participants from around the world, and is working hard to deliver a strong event.
As NPE's exclusive show-daily publisher, Plastics News hopes business picks up, suppliers start selling product again, advertisers resume advertising, and we all live happily ever after.
But meantime we have a job to do. Reporting factually about strategic decisions taken by major industry players is newsworthy. Confirming or discrediting rumors, and sharing what we learn with our readers, is part of that job. As the industry's only newspaper, we're the messenger. We understand and accept what that entails. I'm hoping this column will help others do so, as well.
Robert Grace is Plastics News editor and associate publisher.