Revealing the true story on smart grid development.
I’ve worked hard over my career to maintain good relationships with public relations people. It’s not always easy. Too often PR people push me to publish things that might be important to their clients, but just don’t fit into the magazine’s mission or serve its readers. But what’s worse is when PR people try to keep an important story out of the magazine.
That happened this month. When the lawyers at a major Midwestern utility company found out about a story we were running (“Demonstrating the Smart Grid”), the utility’s PR representative asked us—with consequences implied if we refused—to remove the parts that discussed the company’s pilot projects.
At first my journalist’s hackles went up and I was inclined to ignore the … er, request. As the journal of record for the U.S. utility industry, Fortnightly has a duty to report the facts, thoroughly and in good faith, without fear or favor. I take that duty seriously. But on a few occasions over my 20-year career I’ve omitted certain text because a source wanted it that way. In each case there was a greater good at stake—sometimes a long-term relationship that deserved consideration—and I gritted my teeth and accepted the compromise.