Feb 24

With Disney pulling the strings, ABC should stand for Always Be Cutting

My business partner recently wrote a glowing blog about his Disney experiences. There's no doubt Fct_a39e5ff862f9add that Disney does entertainment remarkably well. I'll bet Walt is smiling as he looks down from that Magic Kingdom in the sky.

That said, entertainment properties such as Disney have no real understanding of, or appreciation for, journalism. To them, it's an expense item. Period.

So, although it's sad to see, it comes as no surprise that Disney-owned ABC News is trimming 300 to 400 journalists from its staff. That's 25 percent of the total. ABC News president David Westin said "The time has come to rethink how we do what we are doing.” That's corporate speak for “I was just following orders.”

Journalism has really taken it on the chin in recent years. First, there were the acquisitions of ABC, NBC and others by media conglomerates. Then came the rise of the 500-plus cable channel universe. The real cataclysm, though, came with the social media explosion that gave rise to millions upon millions of citizen journalists. Choices were everywhere and everyone was calling herself a journalist. What was a poor news network to do?

ABC News never had a Walter Cronkite or Huntley/Brinkley. But, the network has produced some of the profession's best newscasters and journalists all the same.

The stripped-down remnants of the remaining operation prompt a Disney-like analogy in my mind: ABC News is Pinocchio to Disney's Geppetto. When business and entertainment types control the strings, objective news coverage suffers. And, we all pay the price for a society that continues to be dominated by sleazy tabloid 'news' as opposed to true journalism. Where are Woodward & Bernstein when we really need them?

Jul 08

Bottom rail on top now

It warms the heart of this public relations practitioner to read the June 23rd PR Week headline: ‘AnPr
unstable media landscape has journalists seeking PR positions.

Frank Washkuch’s article says that more and more journalists are leaving the newsroom to, gasp, go over to the dark side and become PR practitioners. Yes, Virginia, the handwriting is on the proverbial wall (or whiteboard, if you prefer) and the exodus has begun.

Over the years, many an erstwhile journalist has left his chosen profession to become a PR flack for the higher pay and better stability. But, says Washkuch, the recent across-the-board downsizing at all the major media outlets has turned the trickle into a torrent.

I think it’s great for the public relations profession. We benefit when we have more and more seasoned journalists to help noodle over client challenges. And, we really benefit from their built-in bullshit detectors. Journos know what constitutes a story and what doesn’t. Sadly, there are more than a few PR types who churn out ‘brochure speak" and have no nose for news.

So, give us your hungry, your poor, your huddled masses of journalists. We’ll take ’em. And, in the meantime, maybe some of you journalists should think twice about bashing public relations in your next column. The industry you skewer may one day be your own.

Mar 07

Would journalists do the same for us?

Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon SMR (a PR firm) told O’Dwyer’s Newsletter that PR people need toCpj
step up to the plate and provide financial support to The Committee to Protect Journalists.

The committee, which tracks harassment of journalists worldwide, reports that at least 65 journalists were killed around the world in 2007 because of their work.

Trufelman says "…there would be no such thing as PR without journalism." He also thinks "…PR needs to show greater interest in journalists as dedicated professionals and not just vehicles for pitches."

With all due apologies to the family and friends of slain journalists, give me a break. Does Trufelman not read the various and sundry bashings of the PR industry by the media? Does he not see the journalism-PR relationship as a mutually beneficial one? Would journalists ever contribute money to a ‘Committee to Protect PR People’ who might also work in high-risk zones? (I’m joking, btw). Last, but not least, is Trufelman’s plea not akin to slapping a PBA sticker on one’s car windshield to avoid paying speeding tickets?

Me thinks he’s sucking up big time to the working press.

Dec 05

I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore

Remember the classic line from the movie ‘Network?’  I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore’Weingarten
was shouted by newscasters and news viewers alike in response to the demise of serious news coverage in favor of ‘happy talk.’

Well, I feel the very same way after seeing some high and mighty media types take potshots at public relations professionals.

Everyone and their brother has already weighed in on Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson ‘outing’ 300 or so publicists who annoyed him with e-mail pitches.

Now, there’s Gene Weingarten writing in the Washington Post and beating the bejesus out of PR once again.  Like his Wired peer, Weingarten bitches about voice and e-mail messages from PR people. Rather than out specific ‘flacks’ though, he decides to instead publish his answers to one firm’s queries aimed at updating his profile in their database.

In his incredibly barbed, published response, Weingarten crucifies PR. To wit:

– In explaining his specific ‘beat,’ he says it: ‘…mostly involves ripping PR professionals a new one.’
– In decrying some perceived coupling between PR and marketing, he says ‘the unholy alliance between PR and the soulless marketing industry…makes the team of Hitler-Mussolini seem benevolent.’
– And, asked what tips he’d give PR professionals who may want to contact him, the always affable Weingarten says, ‘I encourage midnight visits to my home by PR professionals who have no immediate relatives or close friends.’

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