Quality News Reporting: From Rags to Riches

Walt Laskos, Principal, The Laskos Groupby: Walt Laskos, Principal, The Laskos Group

Watching the recent Olympic coverage and the quest for gold, silver and bronze medals made me think about awards in general and the kinds of recognition we as a people bestow upon others for excellence in their craft, their sport or their career.

We are all familiar with The Oscars, The Tonys, The Golden Globes, and the Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and for work in fostering peace. Other notable award programs include the Medal of Freedom, The National Humanities Medal, The Pulitzers for outstanding writing and news coverage, and the Jefferson Awards for public service.

Even credit unions have their fair share of awards; The Desjardins Youth Financial Literacy Award, The Maxwell and Herring Awards, and of course, The Wegner Awards to name a few. Add the awards given by credit union leagues throughout the country and the list becomes quite exhaustive.

Yet, with all of these awards and recognitions, there is one award we don’t have, one, which I suggest credit unions ought to pursue—an award for excellence in reporting and news commentary by trade journalists, industry bloggers, newspapers, and other media outlets. The criteria are simple; to what extent does the quality of reporting reflect credit union values and principles.

Only one award comes close to this concept that I am aware of, and it is conducted by the Cooperative Communicator’s Association.

So let me tell you why I think such an award program would contribute greatly to the success of credit unions and their brand awareness.

  • Having credit unions acknowledge journalistic performance using their operating values as criteria creates the opportunity to discuss credit union values, standards of excellence and quality in the public forum.

In today’s world of news reporting where being the first to break a story is so often more important than accuracy itself, every opportunity should be taken to acknowledge quality reporting and the values and principles that influence such reporting. Seeing credit unions put a spotlight on cooperative values and principles during the course of an awards program is one way to educate the public about the standards we all embrace as a movement. Our values distinguish us in the financial services marketplace and we should not be hesitant or embarrassed to herald that fact.

  • By calling attention to the high standards associated with journalistic excellence, credit unions can serve as a catalyst of inspiration to others, motivating them to embrace the same lofty principles.

Every chance credit unions are given to discuss quality standards and their cooperative values is another opportunity credit unions have to teach and inspire. By placing a person or organization on a pedestal, we not only recognize them and their work as a source of inspiration, we also create an opportunity to call out the values and standards by which that person or organization holds themselves accountable.

Recognizing and awarding journalists for excellence in their craft gives us the opportunity to place a value on the standards and principles that earned them such respect. It also allows us to encourage others to make a difference as well, by embracing the same standards and principles, no matter what their profession may be. In my view, today’s world needs all the help it can get if values and principles are to be once again held in high esteem.

  • Recognizing journalistic excellence would contribute to the quality of the credit union story and system-wide brand awareness.

Public perception and knowledge of an organization is formed by many factors. News coverage can be among the most influential. Yet, how many times do we find ourselves complaining that the reporter didn’t get it right. Are they actually at fault or can we be doing a better job to help them do a better job?

If a reporter doesn’t really understand the cooperative business model, our strange language (shares and drafts) or the meaning of not for profit; not for charity but for service and we sit idly by doing nothing about it . . . well, I think you get the picture. That’s not to say the reporter doesn’t have to do his or her homework as well. We, too, need to be active participants in providing the tools that can facilitate how the credit union story is being told.

If we believe that understanding and knowledge are influenced by education, then we need to develop and foster relationships of trust and cooperation with journalists and reporters so that they might rightfully get to know and understand our credit union world a little better. One way to facilitate this is through a recognition program for journalistic excellence. Let’s celebrate those relationships!

There’s no doubt, the benefits from instituting an award program that recognizes excellence in reporting and news commentary are many. It would help promote the continuation of journalistic standards and the value those standards exercise on a free and objective news media. It would grow and enhance credit union relationships with the news media. And, by helping journalists to better understand our philosophy and business, my bet is that it would also foster more and improved coverage of credit unions. I’m sure many of you reading these words can cite other valuable reasons as well, on ways that credit unions could benefit by conducting a journalism awards program.

Finally, what might we call these new awards? My vote is to name them after one of our own credit union veterans, the former NCUA media spokesman, Cliff Northup.

Up until his passing last year, Cliff dedicated his life, his entire professional career to the highest ethical standards. He worked at building relationships with the legislature and the news media to ensure understanding and accuracy in communications. To recognize and acclaim those same standards in others, under his name, would be quite befitting to his legacy and to the quality of the relationships we seek to forge and nourish with the news media.

Walt Laskos, C.U.D.E., M. Div., is a relationship-building executive with more than 30-years of experience in public relations, corporate communications and video production. As principal of The Laskos Group in Temecula, California, Walt provides consultation to credit unions and cooperatives designed to foster morale among staff and members by improving rapport with the news media and the quality of organizational communications. For more information, visit www.TheLaskosGroup.com.

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos

Walt Laskos, C.U.D.E., M. Div., is editor-in-chief of CUNA’s monthly flagship publication, Credit Union Magazine. He is a DE (Development Educator) with a background spanning more ... Web: www.cuna.org Details