The Daily Gamecock

Bank of America executive discusses relationship between journalism, public relations

Robert Stickler kicks off business journalism lecture series

Robert Stickler spoke at the Russell House Wednesday afternoon about his experiences in the field of journalism and corporate public relations, as well as the issues that many of today's journalists face in the digital age.

The event was the first in a four-part series of lectures this spring hosted by visiting journalism professor Rob Wells and the Baldwin Business Journalism Initiative, which aims to help sustain USC's business journalism program.

Stickler's insight into the world of corporate public relations and journalism provided a valuable learning opportunity for Wells' current business journalism class.

Currently the senior communications executive at Bank of America, Stickler previously worked as a financial journalist for several major news publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times and the Miami Herald before joining Bank of America as the manager of financial communications in 1998.

"It's really interesting because we're actually learning about the economy — we're actually learning stuff that's applicable to working with the economy," fourth-year business management and marketing student Caroline DeHaven said.

DeHaven said she felt that a personal viewpoint from Stickler would be an interesting contrast to what is read in the newspaper every day.

Wells, who has worked at a number of national publications like the Wall Street Journal, said Stickler was one of his go-to guys when he was dealing with Bank of America.

"One of my classes is looking at the relationship between corporations and the media," Wells said. "We couldn't have a better speaker than this, to talk about the nitty-gritty of the personality issues between reporters and executives. To have a visiting professional like this to come in and speak with his level of experience, I think is just great."

The lecture touched on many issues that currently face the realms of media and public relations in the rapidly changing digital environment, including the change in ethical standards that has occurred with the rise of cable TV and the Internet.

Having experienced both sides of the relationship between media and public relations representatives, Stickler explained the pressure journalists face to report a story first, rather than spend time fact-checking.

"When you put [a story] out, even though you tell people in the third or fourth paragraph that this is not something that's likely to happen ... the very fact that you're putting it in the newspaper ... creates that perception that something is really going on here," Stickler said.

Having been in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis, Stickler was able to provide a rare insight, acknowledging that mistakes were made by the banks but also emphasizing the fact that all the money loaned to Bank of America by the federal government was paid back in full.

"To me, this was a gigantic rescue of the financial system that the taxpayer actually made money out of, and I think it's a great thing," Stickler said. "I think history's going to show that it was really, really well done by the government."