So much for the separation of church and state

October 14 Journalists love to rake publicists over the coals when given the opportunity, so it’s nice to be able to return the favor every now and then. Phillip Reed, publisher of the Weatherford, Ok., Daily News deserves a special dressing down for his intentional blurring of the lines between the advertising and editorial in his paper.

Reed is insisting that public relations firms include a product along with any press release they forward to him or his news staff. No product, no coverage. Period.

So, he’s been receiving all sorts of alcohol, coffeemakers, cell phones, etc. And, Reed justifies this ‘pay-for-play’ scam because of the recession. How totally sleazy. Oh, and by the way, he keeps all the free alcohol for himself. It’s good to be the king.

I grew up believing journalism’s role in society was to provide objective news and analysis of people, places and things. How objective can a newspaper be about, say, T-Mobile, when the entire editorial staff has just received new blackberries courtesy of the corporation’s PR firm?

Even worse than the paper’s decision is the comment by Mark Thomas, director of the Oklahoma Press Association, who sees nothing wrong with the publication’s ‘grease my palm’ scheme. It’s nice to see a governing body performing its watchdog role so well.

Demanding that PR firms provide product samples is ethically and morally wrong. And, it extends to newspapers’ image and reputation everywhere. How long before other desperate publishers decide to follow suit and open their greedy hands to such largesse?

I’m sorry, Mr. Reed, but this particular PR guy isn’t going to play by your warped rules. No long-sleeve RepMan-branded t-shirts for you.

7 thoughts on “So much for the separation of church and state

  1. Perhaps I am way off but I believe guys like Reed will ultimately help the top PR Firms raise the bar and by doing so differentiate themselves from their competitors who fall pray to this scam. Focus on helping your clients be remarkable and they will get the placement and recognition they derserve

  2. Wouldn’t this arrangement be considered good old-fashioned extortion? Note to boss – I’d like The Beatles Rock Band video game – or that last project you gave me is history…

  3. Good for you, Lunch. PR people need to be a tad more discriminating when it comes to providing product samples to marginal media. Some, like the paper in Oklahoma, are clearly interested in using the products, not covering the story.

  4. Spot on, Sir. I help my brother-in-law with his recently launched side biz, They produce high-end surf, skate and snowboards for the affluent. The surfboards can reach as high at 15 large…you would be surprised at the amount of product sample requests I get for them…from old, crusty female reporters who promise me plenty of coverage. Everytime I ask them where they plan to surf the board, I fail to get a response. Screw them.