Reader Email: What To Do With A Negative Reporter?

A reader named MJen recently wrote in asking how she should handle a reporter who regularly writes negative stories about her organization. She writes:

“Brad, what are your thoughts on reporters or press that are consistently negative in their coverage? When it seems as though they have an angle or agenda already to a story…and when asking for another interview I am really not going to help them bash us again, just so it seems as though they are trying to cover both sides of their article. Would also love to hear how you would word turning down a reporter as well.”


There are times when it’s appropriate to turn down an interview (this article lists seven such times). But generally speaking, I advise against turning down interviews – if you know the story is going to be about you and it will be written regardless of whether or not you participate.

I explain why in this video, called “The Rule of Thirds.”

Blacklisting a reporter is a serious step, one you should reserve for extreme cases. I recommend trying these seven steps first. Here are three of those steps, which may be relevant in MJen’s case:

  1. Write a Response: In print journalism, you almost always have forums available to you for a response, such as a letter-to-the-editor or op-ed. If it’s an option, use it. Don’t repeat the original errors in reporting, since it just gives those errors more airtime – just articulate your point of view.
  2. Speak to the Editor: If you’ve gotten nowhere with the reporter, it may be a good idea to raise your objection with the reporter’s boss to insure he or she is aware of your complaints. Who knows? Perhaps you’re the fourth person to complain about the same reporter in a week.
  3. Respond with Statements Only: If it has become abundantly clear to most independent observers that the news organization in question is irrevocably biased against you or your organization, you have two choices: cut off all access, or respond with precision. I almost always recommend the latter option, which means sending a short written statement in response to a reporter’s query. It’s hard to take a two-sentence statement out-of-context – and it prevents the reporter from writing that you “refused to comment.”

Thanks for the question, MJen! I hope this helps, and wish you the best for future media interviews.

Do you have additional advice to offer MJen? Please leave it in the comments section below. And if you have a question you’d like answered in a future blog post, please send it to

Related: Five Reasons Why Journalists Lead Miserable Lives

Related: How To Beat An Unfair Host In a Media Interview