Welcome to The CPA Journal Archives

Visit cpajournal.com to read the very latest from The CPA Journal


Meet the Press

Building a Relationship with the Public

Joanne S. Barry

During the past fiscal year, NYSSCPA members appeared in the news nearly 400 times across a broad spectrum of media—in radio, television, online, and in print newspapers and magazines. Not all professional associations offer these opportunities. That's because not all professional associations understand the value of fostering relationships with the press.

Twenty-five years ago, I aggressively sought to enhance the Society's media relations program. We had thousands of CPA members available as knowledgeable resources on business, economic, and government issues, yet financial journalists and ultimately the public weren't benefitting from this knowledge because our media relations program wasn't as strong as it could be. Who else to better educate reporters on how to read financial statements than the professionals who audit the financials? As an independent, objective source, the Society is in the best position to connect the profession with the press because we don't represent any firm or business—we represent the profession and what it stands for.

Whether we're working behind the scenes or in the headlines, we tell the CPA story day after day.

CPAs don't generally seek the spotlight. But because New York is the financial and media capital of the country, we realized they didn't need to be. Business reporters understand something that our elected officials and policymakers sometimes forget—a CPA perspective offers an objective and transparent statement of the facts. CPAs are straight shooters; if they weren't, they would not be very good at their jobs. The same is true for reporters. Maybe that's why the Society's media relations program has been so successful: We earned our reputation with the media the same way reporters earn their reputations—by developing trust.

Most financial reporters are not CPAs, but when they write about accountancy they need to sound like they are. Add to this challenge the fact that reporters are routinely assigned to beats in which they may have no familiarity. I've seen more than one sports reporter be reassigned to the business desk with a background in finance limited to some good sports metaphors. Business journalists don't always call the Society looking for story sources. Sometimes they are just looking for background or an understanding of basic accounting processes, such as the importance of counting inventory in an audit. After talking with us, reporters are armed with better information and can use it to ask more informed questions. So although our members appeared in the news nearly 400 times this past year, the profession's message was delivered many times over that figure, even when a member wasn't directly quoted.

Most CPAs are passionate about their profession and even more of them care about getting it right. If a 20-minute conversation helps a reporter get it right, both the profession and the public are served. That's why for years we've provided an annual free seminar for journalists on how to read financial statements. This event is always led by one or two CPA members, usually one who works in higher education, and editors all across the state send their reporters to these classes because they know that an educated press leads to an educated public. The value of these seminars is also realized in the long term. Entry-level reporters who attended our seminars in the 1990s are now high-profile reporters with major publications. And they still call us every day. Whether we're working behind the scenes or in the headlines, we tell the CPA story day after day.

In an effort to show how much the NYSSCPA appreciates the good work of journalists who get it right, I launched an annual financial journalism awards program to honor these reporters: the NYSSCPA Excellence in Financial Journalism Award. We just held our annual awards ceremony in May. The NYSSCPA isn't a national organization, but reporters from across the country flew into New York to attend the ceremony because winning this award really means something to them. We hear it every year: “If the New York State Society of CPAs is giving me an award for this story, I know I got it right.” And that means a lot, because if that's what some of the biggest names in financial journalism are saying at our awards ceremony, then we know we got it right too.

Joanne S. Barry. Publisher. The CPA Journal, Executive Director, NYSSCPA, jbarry@nysscpa.org.

Search for archived articles, authors, and topics below:


Login or create a new account