20 May 2005

They give reporters stories that are true, but whose truth favors their clients

An insightful article on how insidious and pervasive the influence of the public relations industry over the the media is.
Our startup spent its entire marketing budget on PR: at a time when we were assembling our own computers to save money, we were paying a PR firm $16,000 a month. And they were worth it. PR is the news equivalent of search engine optimization; instead of buying ads, which readers ignore, you get yourself inserted directly into the stories.

Our PR firm was one of the best in the business. In 18 months, they got press hits in over 60 different publications. And we weren't the only ones they did great things for. In 1997 I got a call from another startup founder considering hiring them to promote his company. I told him they were PR gods, worth every penny of their outrageous fees. But I remember thinking his company's name was odd. Why call an auction site "eBay?"

PR is not dishonest. Not quite. In fact, the reason the best PR firms are so effective is precisely that they aren't dishonest. They give reporters genuinely valuable information. A good PR firm won't bug reporters just because the client tells them to; they've worked hard to build their credibility with reporters, and they don't want to destroy it by feeding them mere propaganda.

If anyone is dishonest, it's the reporters. The main reason PR firms exist is that reporters are lazy. Or, to put it more nicely, overworked. Really they ought to be out there digging up stories for themselves. But it's so tempting to sit in their offices and let PR firms bring the stories to them. After all, they know good PR firms won't lie to them.

So when you read stories about shortages of IT workers or how suits are making a comeback, as detailed in Graham's article, it should raise a needle on the "bullshit detection meter".

16 May 2005

Newsweek Got Gitmo Right

The CNN headline says Newsweek is backing away from a previously reported Michael Isikoff story that told of Koran desecration, after pressure from a Pentagon spokesman who blamed the the report for recent unrest in Muslim countries. However, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States.
Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Koran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it. Prior to the Newsweek article, the New York Times reported a Guantanamo insider asserting that the commander of the facility was compelled by prisoner protests to address the problem and issue an apology.

One such incident (during which the Koran was allegedly thrown in a pile and stepped on) prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in March 2002. Regarding this, the New York Times in a May 1, 2005, article interviewed a former detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp. And the Times reports: "A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times, confirmed the accounts of the hunger strikes, including the public expression of regret over the treatment of the Korans." (Neil A. Lewis and Eric Schmitt, "Inquiry Finds Abuses at Guantanamo Bay," New York Times, May 1, 2005.)

Juan Cole notes that Newsweek has, in other words, confirmed that the source did read a US government account of the desecration of the Koran. Even the CNN article notes at the bottom that Isikoff "uncovered more allegations of Quran desecration".

Sounds like "we don't like the news", so let's rewrite the news in a most Orwellian fashion.

12 May 2005

We're Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War

Says ABC News
Brides gotta run, planes gotta stray, and cable news networks gotta find a way to fill a lot of programming hours as cheaply as possible. We say with all the genuine apolitical and non-partisan human concern that we can muster that the death and carnage in Iraq is truly staggering.

And/but we are sort of resigned to the Notion that it simply isn't going to break through to American news organizations, or, for the most part, Americans.

What a joke the national television network news divisions have become…

5 May 2005

ABC doesn't take advertising from religious groups.

Unless it's for the far right James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
ABC, NBC, and CBS refused to air this ad from the UCC. NBC and CBS claimed it was "too controversial" because it says "Jesus didn't turn people away". Tolerance of gays and ethnic and racial minorities is really, really controversial with the bigoted set.

ABC said it had a blanket prohibition of all ads from religious organizations. Unless, it seems, they are run by conservatives.

Liberal media bias my arse…