Friday, December 05, 2008

Bad journalism should be outed

I have mulled long and hard over writing this blog post, but my blood is boiling too much this afternoon to withhold any longer.

There is a journalist out here in Australia who embodies bad media practice and I want to share with you just a couple of the things he has done to my clients in recent weeks with the aim of:

a) Helping my friends and family (who are the General Public) understand that PRs are not always the bad guys we are made out to be
b) Motivating everyone to think carefully about anything they read, and to try to understand the drives underlying opinions
c) Reducing my stress

The three times he has pissed me off are as follows:

1) My first run in with the journalist in question started with a phone call from client A. “Emily I am really worried, I have been on the phone for the last ten minutes being sworn at and abused by a journalist. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways so I hung up on him... what have I done??” The abuse stemmed from the fact that the journalist had received a press release from us (very targeted and of interest to his publication). He received it as a redirect from an absent colleague, while his own got stuck in some spam filter for a couple of hours. Affronted that he had been left off the distribution he called my client and went mental. He even said “if you don’t know who you are you must be pretty bad at your job”. Oh, the tirade also included accusations that the client didn’t advertise and threats that all of this meant he was justified in writing something terrible. Which he then did.

2) In a monthly WIP with client B last week I was told that there wasn’t enough budget to do any Australian PR outreach around a major trade show. The next sentence however revealed that the offending journalist was being sponsored to fly to the US for the show. Quote from the client “he will write something bad about us otherwise”. Er – sounds like we are paying protection money to me. Add blackmail to the list of his offences.

3) This week the journalist started on client C. He called the client directly and said he wanted to help with their business – he wasn’t sure why, he said, he just did. He then proceeded to list a number of approaches he believed the company should take. Client C, trying to be polite, replied that they were all good ideas and they should probably investigate them. Within 3 hours an article appeared online. An exclusive scoop no less. Apparently my client is in discussions to do all these things. My favourite (read most aggravating) part was the end, that said “When it was suggested that Client C should XXX, Client C responded “this makes a lot of sense”. HOW IS THAT A SCOOP? Its words in mouths. He decided something was a good idea, phoned a company who said “sounds sensible” and he takes that as affirmation?? Add entrapment to the list.

I am so disgusted by the whole thing I cannot believe it has been allowed to go on. He is his own publisher so no one to complain to and sadly anyone beyond the PR and media worlds are not party to information on his bad practices. Something entirely fictious printed on a website hangs around and taints companies for ever. There must surely be a way to stop this?

Addendum; he also, at a press conference this week, asked whether my client’s “Herpes heel was XX”. Herpes heel??? Er, Achilles??


C Agius said...

I agree... this type of journalism needs to be stamped out! He doesn't even to be classed as a journalist.

K said...

Good rant Em. Sounds like someone needs to be blacklisted. We shouldn't have to put up with this kind of aggression in a job where we're basically just trying to help both sides get along and understand each other.

Emily Wearmouth said...

K you are absolutely right.

I have now realised that I had underestimated the fear people have for this guy. In the 12 hours since I wrote this post I have received multiple emails, text messages, direct tweets and facebook messages all acknowledging that this goes on, that the man is feared and that it is wrong.

What is very telling is how few people have commented on the blog itself - and of the two who have, one has concealed identity.

Bullies have to be stood up to.

Shay said...

I agree, Emily, and I think at this stage it really is a vendor / PR problem to deal with. From our side of the fence, we have seen features on Media Watch discussing plagiarism claims roll past like water off a ducks back, and there isn't much else that can be done by other journalists. But it makes no sense for companies to fear him — refusing to do business should be enough. Why do people think he genuinely has the ear of the public? I doubt his claims reach enough ears to do serious long term damage anymore. A look at the web stats would indicate there are more important outlets to work with.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say it pisses me off to see someone given so much attention when they have so little of legitimate use to say, while those of us who could deliver excellent coverage and commentary elsewhere do not get offered as many trips nor as much access. Why isn't opportunity trumping fear?

Nicole said...

Hi Em, I also think that this guy should really be blacklisted. Nothing good comes of working with him, so why work with him in the first place! Ignoring him will leave you and your clients with more energy to focus on more important and positive things.

Also - this guy will discredit himself with his writing soon enough, so lead by example (as you've always done :-) ) and ignore him!

Sideways said...

Sounds typical of publisher scribblers - they get too big for the slippers they wear. Our competition is run by a similar chap and for similar reasons most PR's now come to us first. Works for me. What he should realise is that PR's and scibs should socialise, drink and get on generally because the PR will always turn to mates first.

And the bloke is clearly a cock - you should tell him as much

Katy ;o) said...

Definitely agree that journalists who get too big for their boots tend to also lose their audience sooner or later through their own arrogance, so it all balances in the end (or it should). And PR's go to those that they know are fair and won't rub their clients up the wrong way, so the aggressive journos also stop getting the good stories.

We get our own back in the end - it just takes a little time.

Em - not so much concealed identity as plain old laziness

K for Katy!

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