All in a Day’s Work

All in a Day’s Work

Many years ago, when I decided to become a journalist, I started cutting my teeth by writing sports. I was pretty young at the time, and I enjoyed a variety of sports. It was a perfect training ground for me.

A funny incident happened to me as I was writing a column for a Friday issue. I found some information that Nike was sponsoring a summer basketball camp in Hawaii with a guest appearance from Michael Jordan. In my column I suggested that it would be good for Nike to bring me along.

End of story, or so I thought.

Not long after, I received a letter from Nike thanking me for the invitation but they couldn’t bring me along. I didn’t expect them to take me to Hawaii, much less send along a letter. They did offer, however, a pair of Nike running shoes, if I would just send them my size.

At the time, I spent a lot of time running. I thought a pair of Nike running shoes would be wonderful. They would fit in with the other brand shoes I was wearing at the time.

The office I worked in was small, a family owned operation. Very few paid attention to my good found fortune, until the shoes actually showed up. Our features editor said to me, “You’re not going to take those are you? They will own you for life.”

I guess he thought I was a relatively easy mark, but I couldn’t be bought for a pair of running shoes. All this doesn’t have a lot to do with security except for the fact that many editors in our security industry are asked to join in on trips sponsored by product manufacturers. The trips, more often than not, are paid for by the companies. The attendees are almost exclusively editors; rarely an industry analyst.

I have been on a lot of these trips over the years. I’ve seen new products that, at the time, made a big impact on the industry and products that make the lives of end users much better.

Recently, I flew to Chicago to interview for the cover story of our Dealer Strategies issue. I didn’t pay for the flight or hotel, and to top it all off, I got a new pair of Nike shoes. They are red, with a Pro 1 on the shoe’s tongue.

There are those that would make readers believe that editors are captive to the industry, and somehow beholden to the manufacturers that we report about. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least from my perspective.

In our office, no one tells me what to write and when to write it. It is our policy to be as vender neutral as possible. We try very hard to do that. We promote new products in various ways and means, such as our New Products section, Top Picks and product solutions sections. Very few, if any, manufacturers have tried to twist my arm in placing a new product write-up.

No doubt that the trips the editors agree to take are fun and enlightening, but I learned several years ago that getting all the editors together is more of a team building exercise than competition or bribery.

This is what we do, as editors. An opportunity to look at the newest products and talk with the engineers is a blessing. It provides precious one-on-one time to learn more in a casual setting than having to compete for time at a tradeshow. Traveling to a manufacturer’s site provides a hands-on demonstration and an opportunity to talk with company executives.

Is it worth the time and effort? Is it worth the menacing taunts from some industry analysts to make these trips and learn more about new products? Of course it is, and of course editors are not bought and paid off. For me, it is definitely worth it. There is never enough time in the day to do all I want to do, as well as people I want to talk to. Any notion that a manufacturer expects pages and pages of coverage from a trip is pure nonsense.

By the way, the red Nike shoes that I’m wearing from the trip to Chicago are a perfect fit.

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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