Survey: Communication Gap Found Between Media and PR in Legal Cases

A survey of journalists reveals a disconnect between the way information is communicated in legal cases and how it gets reported. The results also elude to a deterioration in coverage as newsrooms cull their staffs: sixty percent of respondents have covered more litigation over the past two years.

The Montieth & Company agency found broadly that journalists struggle for access, for clarity, and disclosure when covering litigation. Although there are reasons for legalese, the results point to a need for an informed public relations role in the process as only 31% said plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers are effective in helping them understand the cases and the legal issues involved.

Despite the opportunity to bridge this gap, PR firms didn’t fare well: half were “somewhat helpful” in communicating on behalf of plaintiffs or defendants, 28.6% were “not helpful at all.” Nineteen percent were categorized as “very helpful.”

Other key findings include:

Over 70% of reporters said if they could change anything about the litigation process, they would make it easier for the news media to access court documents. One respondent suggested making PACER searches national, instead of by venue (PACER provides public access
to online case and docket information from Federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts, and from the U.S. Party/Case Index.)

Only 2.4% believed that court pleadings “clearly communicate” the facts and arguments.

When asked which side in a case was more helpful, lawyers for the plaintiff or the defense, not a single reporter named the defense.
More than 38% said plaintiffs’ counsel were “more helpful” and 9.5% said “neither.”

A PDF of the graphs of the results can be found here.