Should journalists point out lies? Should public a
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Should journalists point out lies? Should public a

Paul Holmes

The most buzzed-about piece of journalism of January so far was undoubtedly this extraordinary post by New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane, in which he asks whether Times reporters have an obligation to point out when the people it quotes in its articles are lying. This is just one way in which the ethical standards of the best bloggers (a group in which I would place people like Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall) are so much higher than those of the most reputable newspapers (the New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) that bloggers must be embarrassed to be occasionally described as citizen “journalists.” For this week’s least nuanced, least sophisticated, and least intelligent take on public relations, here’s an article that purports to explain why “public agencies should never—well, almost never—hire a public relations firm.” In response to which I offer two questions: First, do public agencies have any obligation to engage with the public they claim to serve? And second, is it better that they engage with the public in a competent and professional manner, or is it okay for the whole process to be handled by amateurs? The PRSA has unveiled three finalists in its search for an updated definition of public relations. Two of them are pretty good: I don’t like the second definition’s emphasis on communication, strategic or not. Either of the other two would be a step in the right direction. Following up our blog post from last week on proposed changes in UK governance rules, the FT reports that “shareholder activism takes on a more overtly political tone and executives come under heightened scrutiny over pay and their accountability to investors,” with shareholders, regulators and boards all facing challenges. The American public has a short memory. That’s the most obvious conclusion to draw from a YouGov survey that shows the biggest corporate brand “winners” in 2011 were BP, Goldman Sachs and Toyota. You expect this kind of thing from Apple, but surely Microsoft—a company that over the past decade has developed a real social conscience—should be more conscious of problems in its supply chain.
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