Industry Associations Should Press Belong?

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

In an email from the new Digital Signage Federationrecently I received an invitation, extended to the news media, to become members.

There was no mention whether the press would be expected to pay the same fee as digital signage or advertiser members after the first six free months, and a question regard same to the DSF last week has so far gone unanswered.

However, the fee isn’t what concerned me – although journalists are traditionally given a free pass to cover events anyway, so that the presenters get their news out as free publicity, where warranted.

In my 30-plus years as a journalist and editor, I’ve made it a point never to join an association (other than professional organizations for journalists) – either because it was a policy of an employer at the time or of my own volition.

“Why?”, you might ask. “If you are a member, you can give the organization lots of publicity. You’re privy the things going on internally and can be the ‘first with the news.’”

However, that’s precisely one of the reasons why I haven’t become a member. If I know of things going on – management conflicts or situations that I don’t like or approve of, as a member, I would be pulled two ways: loyalty to the ‘club’ to keep things quiet, or as a true member of the press, breaking the story (and likely earning the wrath of ‘friends’.) Journalists need tough skins!

Then there’s the case of other organizations that would be considered similar or ‘competitive’. Could I legitimately cover them fairly if I’m a member of the other organization? If I criticized them, would they consider it ‘sour grapes’ rather than a fair article? Should one care?

Throughout my career, I’ve done my best to help the various organizations with which I was familiar, not only in writing legitimate articles, but by judging their advertising contests, mentoring young people and advising on a myriad of subjects from finding jobs to counseling or acting as a consultant based on my experience. But I think, I hope, by not being a ‘member’, I’ve been fair in my coverage of them – and in turn, I’ve found that people tended to respect my professionalism.

I know there are journalists who do join organizations, largely so they can network and be first with the news, although, I have to admit, I don’t recall them writing a critical article about those organizations. But a journalist or editor can easily ‘network’ without being a member.

So, should I as an editor, become a member of the DSF – or any similar organization? I appreciate the ‘invitation’, but I don’t think so. But if you have an opinion, I’d like to hear it.

One Response to “Industry Associations Should Press Belong?”

  1. Bill Yackey Says:

    As someone who was previously faced with that exact situation, I can tell you that it is probably in your best interest to remain independent. This is particularly important in the DOOH industry, as it is small and there are relatively few news outlets. Right now, there is a dichotomy in the DOOH association world as well. Taking part in the DSF might send a message that your publication has chosen its side in the matter. And let me tell you, once you are seen as being on one side or the other, your accurate, objective reporting becomes more difficult.

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