...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


The Justice Department (Executive Branch) has ordered the federal bureaucracy to ignore the General Accounting Office's finding (Congress) that those "video news releases" they've been distributing to the TV news business are illegal. Mainly on turf grounds--like, We do the legal opinions around here.

The problem with the practice, which is a basic post-TV technique of commercial public relations, is that the video news release doesn't obviously identify its source -- it looks like a news report any TV news crew would do (not necessarily a compliment), and the identification of the source as the U.S. Government is either mumbled or absent. Understaffed, underfunded, ethically challenged, stupid and/or lazy TV news departments think nothing of using this stuff and passing it off as their own news product. The reason it's popped up now is a story in Sunday's NY Times.

In a related development, President Bush has named Karen Hughes, one of his inner circle of advisers, to take charge of "public diplomacy;" that is, the "image" of the US abroad, an administration initiative that has to date fizzled.

Well, Karen, if you're as smart as you seem, and have the President's ear, you might start your new job by suggesting that it ain't what you say in your news releases or your ads, it's what you do that produces your "image," in the long run. That he might start by getting us back into the Kyoto process, or signing up with the world's war crimes court system. And you might tell him that if he thinks the world is gonna give us the Nobel Peace Prize for our Middle East policy, just because the satellite dish- and Web browser-equipped Arab public are finally demanding the retirement of sheiks and generals, he may be disappointed. No matter how much the live-in-the-moment US media is joining the celebration of the current democratic rash out in the desert.

In the meantime, here at home, don't you think, my surfer friend, that it's long-since time to drain the whole PR swamp? Wake up. Write your local TV station manager. Don't bother with radio stations; they don't even pretend to do news anymore. Write your Senator and Congressman (O.K., or Congresswoman). We may not be able to turn the hype-glazed TV people around overnight, but we could get our government out of the PR business pretty quick if we raise enough hell with Congress. Then, Karen, the President could really tell ol' Vlad' Putin that he lives in a "transparent" country, and mean it.

1 comment:

geoff said...

Right On.