Friday, March 27, 2009

Media Unbiased?

So here's the deal: today, when you deal with the media, you don't really know who you're talking to. Client A (who shall remain unmentioned due to confidentiality concerns) gets story request from pushy, big city tabloid daily to meet unreasonable deadline on big story with no benefit of context, (i.e., we've talked to a source who alleges your practices are unreasonably impacting the public), to respond to, "We want to talk to your principal for an overview of what you've been doing for the past 30 years." Respectfully decline the interview when reporter refuses to be more specific about the subject of the interview (suspecting political agenda, based on the paper), only to get slammed with a front page headline alleging abuses from an ex-administration bigwig who had auspices over this same jurisdiction up until a month-and-a-half ago, who suddenly finds the practices "unconscionable."

Meanwhile, local television news station, network affiliate and supposedly part of the MSM (mainstream media), interviews the reporter about the story as an exclusive, without even bothering to request an interview with my client, runs the story on the evening news in advance of the tabloid, and doesn't bother to ask for a response until the proverbial garbage has hit the fan and the client must now play defense.

As it turns out, network affiliate has a link to said tabloid on its news site and must frequently be in the habit of breaking stories or partnering with this not-too-credible paper.

Is it about news, or sensationalism? Have we returned to the days of yellow journalism? Is there even such a principle as "Truth in Disclosure" when talking to the media these days, to find out if by talking to Organ A, you are really talking to A plus B and any undisclosed alliances and partnerships that are in effect?

As newspapers close and TV news loses audience share to blogs and newly-emerging unrefereed online press, is corporate pressure to maximize revenues and recapture audience so overwhelming that the audience no longer even knows who is responsible for what? Doesn't the public, not to mention those of us who duke it out daily with reporters over fair and unbiased reporting on clients, have the right to know? What good is a free press if it is now an unfettered free-for-all. And where is the FTC and FCC today - is there a new need for regulatory oversight in this lax environment of media consolidation? And where does the almighty "buck" stop when reporting is corrupted by obfuscation and lack of transparency in the name of maximizing revenue?