Oct 14

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.