Ex-TV Anchor: How to Deal with Media Leaks

As a former reporter, I can say some of my best stories came from leaks. Yes, leaks to the media drive presidents crazy. But, Mr. Trump is not the first to be frustrated by them. And he won’t be the last.

So, what causes leaks and what should be done about them? Every person who leaks information to the press has an agenda. It’s the journalist’s job to be aware of what it is.

What Causes Leaks?

There are many reasons for the behavior. Those leaking:

  • Want to undercut the administration’s agenda because they do not agree with it.
  • Hope to gain political advantage by harming the people they are leaking about.
  • Have personal animus toward someone (I once got a leak from the ex-wife of a well known figure).
  • Wish to curry favor with the media with the hope of some future benefit.
  • Hope to educate the media without their name attached
  • Are good people who simply want to right a wrong.

The last two reasons are why leaks are needed. Otherwise, too much government incompetence, deceit and corruption would go unnoticed. The same can be said for corporate misbehavior, too.

But, not all leakers are created equal. If someone consistently tries to undercut administration policy simply because he/she doesn’t agree with it, they deserve to be disciplined. Of course, they have a right, and obligation, to register dissent. But once policy is set, they should make a good faith effort to comply. Policy must be set by the elected officials, not by unelected bureaucrats. Too many bureaucrats think they have earned the right to set policy. They haven’t. That’s why elections matters. The same applies to leakers with personal axes to grind.

How Do You Deal with Leaks?

Checking staffers’ cell phones is not the answer. It sends the wrong message: you don’t trust your own staff. Better approaches include:

  1. Leadership
    The best way to minimize leaks is with leadership. The leader’s job is to convince those working for him/her that they are part of a noble cause and everyone there plays a role in that mission. I know that sounds naive these days, but true leaders are capable of such an impact. Leadership requires a consistent and persistent message that resonates with employees.
  2. Fire People
    If you inherit political appointees who will never agree to support your goals, you should fire them….quickly. They are poison to the rank-and-file whose respect the leaders must earn.
  3. Tranparency
    The more transparent you are, the less there is to reveal through leaks. Transparency is a culture and it will no doubt produce some embarrassments. But, the alternative is more damaging leaks.
  4. Hold the Media Accountable
    Does the media use the leaks to reveal truth and create more justice, or are they used to get back at a politician they don’t like? That’s a fair question.
  5. Acceptance
    We live in a free society. Organizations are going to have leaks. Have a plan in place for dealing with the next crisis.

For the public, they should remember government and the media each has their own agenda, too. Seek information from multiple sources, pay more attention and speak up.

Mark Grimm spent 12 years as a TV journalist, 11 years as a media professor and hosted a popular radio show for 14 years.













































































  1. Fire People:
    You also have to fire people. If you inherit political appointees who will never support your goals, they need to go…quickly. They are poison to the rank-and-file whose respect the leaders must earn.







Report: Media Future Is Knocking. What’s Your Answer?

New Research Report on News

The bad times for traditional media are getting worse and nearly every citizen is becoming part of the mass communication landscape. The question is, “Are they ready for it?”

A new report from the Pew Research Center reveals newspaper employment is off 30% from its peak in 2000 and local TV audiences were down “across every key time slot and across all networks in 2012.” Average revenue for news-producing stations dropped 36% from 2006-2011.

Ironically, these cutbacks have made traditional media outlets less capable of confronting the very competition that is pulling them under. Instead of providing more in-depth, quality coverage that would give them the edge over the many other information sources, they are doing less. In fact, about 40% of local TV news content last year was weather, sports and traffic. To add insult to injury, the non traditional information producers are getting much better at using technology to circumvent traditional media all together.

Everyone on Facebook is now a publisher. This is enormously good and bad news. It’s good because a few powerful media outlets will never be able to command the attention of the masses again. This is a body blow to media bias because such power can never really be entrusted to any small group. Mass communication today is far more democratic and the diversity of views has expanded beyond our wildest dreams.

And now the bad news. Journalism requires skill. Accuracy, fairness, context, clarity — no one is born with these traits, you have to learn and refine them. The Internet is the “Wild West” of information consumption and it’s hard to locate the good among the bad or to even know the difference if you did.

So what lies ahead for the age of the citizen communicators? That story has yet to be written. We’ve upped the ante on being interesting. Our education system must place more focus on developing communicators who care more about what their audience wants than what they want. Greater skill is needed in story telling. When was the last time college entrances exams tested for that? Concise language and savvy use of visuals are tools that are needed more. And everyone needs a plan on how to be informed. It won’t ever happen by chance.

Those who achieve these skills will own the 21st century. They will have a much better chance at happiness.

As for those in traditional media, the best storytellers will always have an audience. And the gatekeepers…they’ll never have it like they once had.

The writer, a former TV anchor, owns a communications business and is an adjunct media professor.