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BIO 2012 convention bars some, but not all, media from keynote event

Posted by Mark Leccese  June 19, 2012 02:33 PM

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The Globe reported a couple of hours ago that BIO 2012, a trade association's annual convention for the biotech industry, barred reporters from mass-circulation publications from its keynote luncheon at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center today but allowed reporters from the biotechnology trade press to attend. The event featured former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Henry Paulson Jr. and Robert Rubin.

This is one of the stupidest media bans I’ve seen in a lifetime of stupid media bans, and I’ll tell you this: If I were a member of the biotech trade press, I’d be insulted.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization’s partial media ban says to the biotech trade press: “We trust you to write what we tell you to write. You’re not really journalists, anyway, you're just an arm of the biotech industry.”

Nothing like a major organization telling the journalists who cover its members that, really, all things considered, they’re not journalists at all.

The Globe quotes BIO spokesman Jeff Joseph:

We want to ensure that our presenters are comfortable speaking openly before our paid attendees. Our goal is to try to maximize the experience for our paid attendees while ensuring all media have fair and reasonable access to our convention.

This is a particularly flagrant instance of the duplicity of PR people. How, exactly, does banning reporters from mass-circulation publications ensure “all media have fair and reasonable access” to the convention?

The weasel word there is “reasonable.” BIO considers it unreasonable to allow the unruly and dangerous reporters from mass-circulation publications to cover the event and reasonable to allow reporters from what it obviously considered a docile and pliant trade press to cover the event and write it up.

Since BIO is a private organization and BIO 2102 is private convention, it would have been well within the group’s rights to ban all media from the keynote luncheon, in case Paulson or Rubin said anything too interesting or, heaven forbid, controversial. It is also well within its rights to bar some media while allowing other media.

It’s just stupid.

Another reason why the partial ban is stupid: Journalists from mass-circulation publications read the trade press, especially the online trade press — so if the trade press does its job, whatever Paulson and Rubin said at lunch will be available to the mass-circulation press before dinner.

I know, I know — nobody want to hear reporters whine about being barred from covering events. “Good enough for ya,” says the general public. “Who do you people think you are?”

That would be a legit reaction if all media had been barred from the keynote event, but when any organization, even a private one, decides it is going to hand-pick who in the media gets access and who doesn't, you would be wise to question your trust in that organization.

Follow @mleccese on Twitter.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, covered Massachusetts politics, business and the arts for more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and magazine writer. He has More »

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