COMMENTARY: Blindly following the PR playbook
January 1, 2008
Dear French Hospital spokesperson:
There was a day when overstuffed suits like you could rant and rave to your favorite newspaper publisher over shrimp and crepes and have some kind of real impact on the shape of hometown news reporting.
But thanks in part to Websites like UncoveredSLO.com (and similar ones in more and more communities) your heretofore solitary bully pulpit now is crowded with the unwashed masses – a circumstance that goes a long way toward helping neutralize your hollow comments.
Before you and your troop of anonymous blogsters spend a lot of time reviling UncoveredSLO.com’s co-editor Karen Velie and the entire Website, you need to know something: We’re going to be here well after your minions have departed this scene, and we’re going to be spending our time reporting on a lot of subjects that until now have been sacred cows to this county’s media. Has your facility been such a bovine?
You claim to happily interact with “legitimate media sources” to get them “the facts.” You and I both know this is simply public relations-speak for, “We talk to reporters we can manage because they report what we want. All others are not legitimate media.” If I had a nickel for every time some bonehead bureaucrat or corporate lackey said that to me or about me, I’d have a bucketful.
Let me tell you something about professional journalists: We get kicked around by the best. It’s all part of the job. Tell me I’m factually wrong, I’ll prove my facts are right. Point out a real error, I’ll own up to it. But you seem unwilling to refute specific points made by your hospital’s own employees — and the public record — contained in the UncoveredSLO article. I expect your similar non-response to other, future articles.
And remember this little fact: In its first few days on the Web, UncoveredSLO.com got 52,000 hits. That’s getting down the road to legitimacy.
We’ll do lunch.