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".


I just watched the DVD "Manufacturing Consent" about the book with the same name.


It is partly about how 1/3 of the East Timor islands population, 200,000 people, men, women and children were killed by Indonesians, using American weapons. "During the invasion and 27-year occupation, an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 people were killed in an initial population of about 600,000 at the time of the invasion."


There was mass tortures, women were sent to soldiers to be prostitutes and raped like the Japanese did to the Chinese during World War 2, people were thrown out of helicopters.

US President Ford had visited Indonesia, a client state with a puppet dictator, a couple of days before the invasion. Because of the freedom of information act, we now know that Kissinger gave the green light to Suharto, our ruthless puppet dictator, to invade. Australia also supported the invasion because of the potentional oil rights.

During the Carter administration America continued to sell arms to Indonesia to slaughter the East Timorese. There were concentration camps set up on the island. The America media was completely silent of the event. When the genocide increased to its highest levels, the reporting on East Timor in America stopped completely.

Chomsky pushed for attention with the media of this event. Finally, in the late 1990's the media started to pay attention and to push congressmen to focus on the genocide. When President Clinton said for the invasion should stop, because of media and congressional pressure, the invasion stopped, very quickly. Our client dictator pulled out.

I remember how the news media reported the Indonesian pull out the same way it reported the massacre of Chileans and trial of Pinochet: it completely ignored the part we had in the invasion and the genocide.

On the other hand, our enemy, Pol Pot, which regime came to power partly because of our bombing and destabilization of the Cambodia government in 1973-1975. The bombing killed an estimated 750,000 to one million people, mostly civilians. Since Pol Pot was an enemy of America, the genocide was reported heavily in the media, and large, unrealistic numbers of people dead and killed were reported. Fake made pictures were staged and produced to show the genocide, and were republished extensively in the media.

The amount of space covered by the East Timor genocide between (1975-1979) in the New York Times, was 70 column inches.

The New York Times index for Cambodia (1975-1979) was 1,175 column inches. In dramatic fashion the movie lays out the amount of coverage of both massacres side by side. It is startling.