EARLY this morning, the boards of Thomson Corporation and Reuters Group PLC announced that they have agreed to combine their companies.
Reuters CEO Tom Glocer, 47, will become CEO of the new Thomson-Reuters. Thomson President and CEO, Richard J. Harrington, 60, will retire after the deal closes, which is expected after anti-trust clearances are obtained.
The Thomson Financial unit, which includes the corporate services business that helps companies promote themselves to investors and the media, will become known as Reuters and be merged with the Reuters financial and media business. Current Reuters COO Devin Wenig will become CEO of the Reuters business, with Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger continuing in that role.
Unbiased news, unfiltered corporate PR don’t mix
Now here’s the important bit as far as IR Web Report’s readership is concerned:
Thomson-Reuters will adopt the Reuter Trust Principles. Woodbridge, the Thomson family company which will own 53% of the new company, has agreed that it will use its voting control to support the principles.
One of those principles is that “the integrity, independence and freedom from bias of Reuters shall at all times be fully preserved.” Another is “that Reuters shall supply unbiased and reliable news services” to its customers.
And that’s got me wondering. Where does the Thomson Financial corporate services business — which includes corporate Public Relations and Investor Relations services — fit in the combined new Reuters division?
These services are essentially PR for businesses. They offer to do things for companies like:
- “Differentiate and humanize your brand”;
- “Engage and educate your audience with a presentation as unique and powerful as your message”;
- “Deliver a unified message” and “communicate consistently to all audiences (media, investors, employees, customers)”;
- “Maximize all of your corporate communications outreach efforts”; and,
- Improve “the comprehension and retention of your message.”
That doesn’t sound like unbiased, independent news. Last time I checked, journalism and PR are not the same thing. They don’t mix, not at least at any self-respecting news organization.
Yet, under the structure announced by the companies today, the Reuters business will have departments which essentially exist to promote companies’ unfiltered information to journalists and the investment markets.
That’s a bit of conflict, and as a journalist I would be uncomfortable with it, as Reuters’ journalist unions are.
According to FT Alphaville, one source says up to 3,000 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the combination.