If you're following the controversy surrounding Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., you may have been surprised to see Plastics News mentioned in a Yahoo Finance blog column: “News Corp: The Murdoch Discount and the Murdoch Premium.”
I certainly was.
But the reference isn't bad. No one is accusing PN of hacking into anyone's phone or bribing Scotland Yard.
The column actually focuses on how some parts of Murdoch's empire might become less attractive to prospective employees — newspaper, radio and TV reporters and the like — as a result of the hacking scandal that brought down News of the World.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, historically has been able to pay less than premium wages for talented journalists — at least according to Daniel Gross, author of the Contrary Indicator blog on Yahoo Finance. That's because of the Journal's prestige, as well as its benefits and working conditions.
That's where Gross brought up Plastics News.
“It's a lot easier [for journalists] getting your phone call returned when you work for the Journal than when you work for Plastics News,” Gross wrote parenthetically.
That got my attention, so I contacted Gross.
Why Plastics News?
“I was trying to match up a broad-based, mass publication with instant name recognition in financial and corporate capitals, on the one hand, with a smaller trade publication that serves a niche,” he wrote.
“And Plastics News came to mind, not entirely at random. One of my oldest friends in journalism, Adam Lashinsky (now at Fortune) had his first real job in journalism as Washington correspondent for PN.
“We met when he was an intern in Crain's D.C. bureau while I was working at the New Republic, and he would frequently mention the challenge of getting non-industry players to return phone calls compared with the comparative ease competitors at The Washington Post, New Republic, and WSJ had.”
And that's perfectly reasonable. The editorial staff at Plastics News has about 200 years of experience covering the polymers sector — that's not an exaggeration — so when we call sources in the plastics industry, we're well-known.
But when we call sources on Wall Street or Capitol Hill, sometimes it takes some extra effort to get the information we need. And that was even tougher back when Lashinsky was PN's reporter in Washington, in the early 1990s.
Still, Plastics News has been in print for more than 22 years now, and it's very rare for our reporters to run into sources who aren't familiar with the publication and our website.
If WSJ reporters are suffering from a lack of prestige these days, they have my sympathy. But even if the Journal staffers had nothing to do with this News Corp. scandal, it's a price they pay for their association with Murdoch.
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko famously left the Chicago Sun-Times when Murdoch purchased that newspaper.
The Journal is still a fine newspaper, and I'm proud to describe PN as The Wall Street Journal of the plastics industry.