Mess Media, September 4, 2009
Michaels Bryant’s killing of Allan Sheppard has garnered a vast amount of media attention but how much of the media coverage is generated by Bryant’s PR firm. Rick Salutin of the Globe and Mail reports on the PR campaign to contoll the media message.
The firm turned out to be Navigator Ltd., which acted for Brian Mulroney during the Karlheinz Schreiber operetta. This muddies everything that follows.
Salutin reports that Bryant’s second phone call in custody was to hire the PR firm. From that moment the facts of the story have been crafted by those employed by Bryant.
But there’s one element that irritates me severely. It’s the presence, since very early, of a public-relations firm aiding Mr. Bryant. Globe reporter Timothy Appleby says he was told outside the jail that morning that a PR firm was involved. Even Sherman McCoy [in The Bonfire of the Vanities] didn’t use his second call to phone a publicist
Remember Bryant is a skilled politician with ten years of experience in holding press conferences, public self-promotion and political campaigns. And that’s what this story is turning into – political campaign by Bryant and his PR firm, only in this campaign the “opponent” is dead.
Another aspect of Bryant’s campaign is to flood the media with speculation, rumour and in some cases outright lies. The Globe asks:
When a news story says, “We have new information from a source …” is that source Navigator? Or someone egged on by Navigator? We won’t know because Navigator “prefers to be inconspicuous.”
In this case the Globe knows of what it speaks. It’s Canada’s national newspaper and has dealt with Bryant’s PR firm on this campaign and others. The inside information revealed by the Globe is no surprise but it is surprising that the newspaper would allow it to be revealed. “Canada’s National Newspaper” is obviously concerned and discouraged by the campaign.
Reporters talking to them have to agree that everything is off the record. Why? Ms. Reisler of Media Profile says her team urges clients “to speak for themselves.” Why couldn’t that be the end of it? Tell them to get out there and tell the truth, especially if they’re politicians who’ve already faced the news media incessantly. Then the PR mavens could shut up, go home and watch the rest unfold on TV with everybody else.
And it’s not just this story, it’s a problem with media coverage on many stories.
And a depressing quantity of news stories, especially in areas such as medicine, now come from well-produced PR packages sent on behalf of pharmaceutical firms and the like. Caveat viewor.