A recent blog by Katherine Barrios, chief marketing officer of container freight rate analytics company Xeneta, about shipping and logistics journalists raised a few eyebrows if not a few hackles.
Katherine – who works closely with journalists – made complimentary comments about top shipping journalists and their publications. Her article was not a ranking as such, but she said nice things about several publication.
From Xeneta’s perspective, it focused more on freight and logistics writers rather than the nuts and bolts shipping journo brigade.
So far, so good. But who she left off the list probably bruised more than a few egos. To be fair, some very senior and notable names did not feature on Katherine’s list. The fact that she compiled such a list perhaps reflects the fact that there have never been more specialist writers plying their trade in the shipping sector.
The acute commentary on it reminds the shipping industry that journalists and what they write are an integral part of the business, especially when there’s a crisis situation or any kind of negativity surrounding a ship or an owner.
Most owners and managers naturally focus on what the ‘big beast’ media cover when there is a problem with a vessel. However, in the fog of war it is often forgotten that specialist media have a vital and often influential role in how a casualty is reported and how it is perceived.
Specialist media will usually take the lead on a story, having the greatest understanding of what has occurred and appreciating the technical, operational and commercial nuances and intricacies of an evolving situation.
General reporters from the big news organisations such as the BBC, CNN, etc will take their cue from the specialists covering the beat on a daily basis: this is something many industry professionals do not appreciate.
When a general reporter with no knowledge of an industry is assigned to a major developing story, one of the first things they will do is dig deep into the specialist media.
This will often be done via a simple web search, but the more diligent mainstream reporters will often contact industry specialist correspondents to seek background, nuance and new angles.
This is not to say they collude on articles, but when working from a standing start on a major breaking casualty, a general reporter will need contacts and background guidance to get started.
What is in it for the trade journalist?
Well for one it is often the case that the specialist reporters will get quoted as an “industry expert” or analyst in the mainstream media.
This maybe for a fee, but often there is no fee because just a mention in the Financial Times or the BBC is enough to provide most industry journalists with enough kudos to last several months.
It is fair to say that if the industry journalist is doing their job correctly, they will not be any easier to deal with than mainstream media in a casualty situation.
In fact, they can often be harder to deal with because unlike their gadfly cousins in the mainstream media, they will probably know the background context of your company, its accident track record and its position within the industry in general.
The specialist journalist can often be armed to the back teeth with knowledge that can be used to great effect in terms of angle hunting when there is a major casualty.
The shipping trade and technical media depend on the industry for their existence and commercial well being to a large extent. In that sense the relationship between the specialist shipping media and industry is symbiotic: the two sides need each other.
Shipping would certainly be a poorer, an even more opaque industry, if it were not for the specialist media who strive each day to report on and explain an often arcane and secretive business.
Unlike the mainstream media, the shipping press has to come back to a company after there has been an incident with a vessel. The mainstream media move onto the next story with scant regard for reputations damaged, people getting hurt.
We encourage our clients to maintain good and close relations with the maritime press across the whole spectrum as much as possible.
It is fair to say the industry is more likely to get a fair and balanced hearing from the shipping press when it comes to casualty reporting than from the mainstream media.