Though it is not our practice to editorialize about industry issues, there is currently industry chatter about the responsibility of the trade press and that subject is in our wheelhouse.
Jim Prevor has leveled the charge in his blog that it was irresponsible to cover the secret efforts of the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association to merge. He reasoned that those two organizations deemed the situation to be confidential and the industry press should have respected that. He intimates that the lack of confidentiality might be responsible for dooming the effort.
On this particular issue, The Produce News was front and center. We broke the story, and with our worthy competitor, The Packer, we covered it as best we could along the way.
We have a good relationship with both PMA and United, and we try hard to keep it that way. But with all due respect to those two great organizations, our first responsibility is to you, our readers.
We have no opinion on whether these negotiations should have been carried out in private or in public. That's not our job. Our job was to cover them in any legal manner that we could. We took the public comments released by the organizations and dug deeper, as our profession requires us to do. We found sources with ties to each organization that did not agree in the confidentiality aspect and believed that a public airing was in the best interest of the process.
We reported what we believed was relevant and kept confidential aspects that we found to be irrelevant or that we could not confirm with at least two sources.
We believe we did a professional job, and we also commend the CEOs and staffs of both organizations for their professionalism. While they continually responded with "no comment" to our inquiries, at no point did either organization attempt to alter any story that we were writing. In fact, we were always referred to the official spokespeople of the merger attempt and advised to continue checking back for more updates. They respected our responsibility to our readers just as we respected their responsibility to their leaders.
Should the merger happen? That's not for us to decide. But we will continue to attempt to bring to our readers any developments on this issue as quickly as we can so you are kept informed.