Why I don’t sign non-disclosure agreements

Ex-journalist Alan Jones doesn’t sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) – story no longer online.

Jones works as a consultant helping tech start-ups with product strategies and marketing communications. He says asking people to sign a legal document which says “we don’t trust you” isn’t a great way to start a business relationship.

Like Jones, I don’t sign NDAs, but for different reasons:

  • I’m a journalist. I write news. NDAs stop me from doing that. My job is to get past corporate gatekeepers to tell readers what’s going on.
  • Early in my career I was burnt when a company asked me to sign a non-disclosure. It then gave the story as an exclusive to a rival. I never trusted that company or the people involved again. I haven’t trusted NDAs since either.
  • I’ve often worked as an editor for titles which use wire services. NDAs are written so I can’t run overseas-written leaks about the secret squirrel stuff.
  • Journalists have no business conspiring with public relations or marketing executives to mislead or misinform readers.

There are times when journalists are justified signing NDAs:

  • Product journalists and reviewers need to sign NDAs to get products before an official launch.
  • When an NDA is effectively a short term news embargo. For example, you’ve an exclusive interview with a top expert the day before a major announcement.

There could be other times, let me know in the comments if you think of any.

Lastly, nothing annoys me more than turning up to an interview or an event and having a previously unmentioned NDA shoved under my nose. The last time this happened I turned around and walked away.