Thursday, June 21, 2007

Muskegon Chronicle Reporter Caught in MSNBC Investigative Piece

It's rare that the news media does investigative stories on itself. So it's unusually exciting that MSNBC did an investigative report on how journalists--who are supposed to remain objective politically--have been secretly giving money to partisan political campaigns.

Relevant to this local blog--one of the reporters caught up in the story is Terry Judd of the Muskegon Chronicle.

Here's an excerpt from near the end of the story:

At the Muskegon Chronicle, a daily newspaper in Michigan, reporter Terry Judd gave $1,900 to the Democratic National Committee in six contributions from 2004 through 2006; and $2,000 to Kerry in March 2004. "You caught me," Judd said. "I guess I was just doing it on the side."

His editors said they're not sure there is an "on the side."

"This information makes us want to think farther and more deeply about what we encourage and discourage in reporters," said the metropolitan editor, John Stephenson. "We have always historically said, you guys can have any political beliefs you want. Just don't wear your hearts on your sleeve or your bumper.

"Truthfully, this sort of thing may be the new bumper."

And to think I've been arguing with popular PR blogger Strumpette on MyRagan. She says PR is nothing more than media relations, because we need third party credibility. I say PR is about relationships, and media relations is merely one of many tools. Credibility actually can be gained better through direct communication with our publics, IF we have a good reputation. The media does not always have the reputation to lend itself credibility. This MSNBC piece is evidence of that.


Amanda said...

The fact that you're not understanding this point is getting seriously depressing. And you're teaching this stuff?! Arrgh.

Listen, your pointing to the odd exception aside, a vetted authoritative independent information model is better for society than hordes of knucklehead PR weasels foisting opinion so as to bamboozle us into buying their clients shit. That's reality!

- Amanda

ka said...

Anyone who didn't know that the media were a bunch of left-leaning thumb suckers is completely out of touch. I should know...I've worked as one of those left-leaning thumb suckers. That they've given campaign contributions at all is a minor miracle considering how poorly they're paid. One can watch the news today and identify the PR pieces in the media by watching to see if they use stock footage in the report. If you see a pharmacist counting pills, chances are it's a PR piece. If consumers aren't taking the time to educate themselves on why they buy what they buy, who's to say PR people should need to be ethical? A good reporter's going to report both sides of the news no matter who's getting is (again, unbelievably) extra dollars. A good PR person's going to tell his client's side of the story to whoever is more reputable (in the public opinion) than himself. But maybe I'm not seeing the bigger picture here.

Tim Penning, APR said...

It's you who do not understand. I teach that journalism is vital not just to PR but to democracy. You miss the point that credibility does not only come from journalists, in fact it comes better from personal relationships. That's a fundamental aspect of PR.

And, in academia, we test things with large samples. Your opinion, while interesting, represents a sample of one. Credibility studies are not fluffy ivory tower crap. They are rigorously tested. THAT is more real than the RL you champion.

Perhaps your larger problem is that you see PR only as a corporate function. If you look at the vast majority of PR people who work in non-profit and other sectors, they are not merely selling "shit.' They are advocating causes. They do more than media relations.

But I guess if your only tool is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Amanda said...

No. Credibility does NOT come from personal relationships. That's Edelman-Thrust-Barometer crap. Credibility/trust comes from something that's independent of the vagaries and whims of humankind. I trust that the sun will rise. Or, as is on that dollar in you pocket, “in God we trust.” Period.

Here, as to the FUNDAMENTAL aspect of PR, it’s "word made flesh." It is where belief becomes real and independently verifiable. I do not believe in ANYTHING because a mob is variously thrilled. They’re idiots! And you sir are similarly if you need them to think.

With regard to genuine belief vs. paid advocacy... I absolutely make that distinction. But in the business of PR… genuine belief is definitely the minority… a VERY small minority.

Lastly, again, as I’ve said in other forums… you spout theories that are neither practical nor real. That may work for Grand Valley State University but you’ll have your ass handed to you in the Big Leagues pal.


- Amanda

Tim Penning, APR said...

"Credibility does not come from personal relationships."

You married? Have any friends?

There are no credible relationships in the "big leagues"?! (Where I have played and in fact my ass is fine).

Again, you miisunderstand theory. It's not an idle comment. It's tested again and again, does not fail, is practical, is real, valued by GVSU, acadmic colleages around the world, and thousands of practitioners.

Media relations is vital. But it's not the sum total of PR.

Tim Penning, APR said...

Also, "word made flesh."

Biblical reference is good. The rest of that description of Jesus is that He "dwelt among us."

i.e., he didn't get a story placement in the Jerusalem Post.