Speaking Their Minds: Employee Voice and the “Trust Agent” Halo Effect

Anyone read Tim Cuprisin’s recent OnMilwaukee.com “On Media” column titled, “That Liberal Rag?” He started it by noting the skewering that left-leaning County Exec candidate Chris Abele has undergone recently at the hands of Dan Bice, an investigative reporter for the supposedly left-leaning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Cuprisin then cited a number of other articles and positions the paper has taken which counter the Journal-as-liberal-rag myth (like endorsing Scott Walker for Governor) before giving deserved kudos to several MJS reporters. Cuprisin’s points were that a) good news reporting is objective; b) Bice is an example of a good reporter; and c) the Journal’s news coverage is neither left- nor right-leaning.

Several things struck me about this column. First off, it’s interesting to hear those compliments coming from OnMilwaukee.com, a media outlet which competes (at least somewhat) with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s jsonline.com website. It’s doubly ironic in light of the social media musings of OnMilwaukee.com owners Andy Tarnoff and Jeff Sherman, who rarely miss an opportunity to tweet the latest news about the impending demise of print newspapers (and understandably so, I suppose.)

(ASIDE: A third irony is that the most persistent propagator of the MJS-as-“liberal rag” theory is the Journal-Sentinel’s own sister property, WTMJ-AM. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog topic.)

Back to OnMilwaukee.com.

While I applaud the column by Cuprisin (who, it should be noted, is an ex-Journal-Sentinel employee, as are several other OMC staffers), I have even greater applause for the OnMilwaukee.com management. It takes cojones to let one of your marquee writers express personal opinions that don’t necessarily support your own. That, I think, is good journalism…and good business. Certainly it makes OnMilwaukee.com more credible — credibility that extends to restaurant reviews, event previews and other typical content. Not only did Cuprisin cement his status as a “trust agent” in my book, that status will have a halo effect on the entire OnMilwauakee.com organization. As a partner at B+L, I can say that my organization tries hard to live up to this example of employee empowerment. I suggest yours do the same.