Tag: PR

Message Force Multipliers

In May 2011, Pro Publica ran an article by John Sullivan titled ‘PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking News Rooms’. The impetus for the article was the 2010 story of the year, the Gulf oil spill at BPs Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform.

Reporting from the U.S. Coast Guard hearing, New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow observed, “You would go into these hearings, and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of 2008 there were three times as many PR people in the US as there were journalists–a shift from 1980, when the numbers were roughly equal. According to the American Society of News Editors, the number of newspaper reporters and editors peaked at 56,900 in 1990, and by 2011, dropped to 41,600. As media critic Robert McChesney observed, “We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country.”

Public Relations is now used by government and industry to influence public opinion on everything from consumerism to militarism. As a result, the number of original news stories is down, and many stories are now generated by government agencies and PR people working hand-in-hand. As a retired editor of the Washington Post remarked, the Internet makes it easy for public relations people to reach out directly to the audience.

As PR Watch reported in 2006, television news now airs video news releases created by corporate and government PR people, within broadcast stories posing as original news. Appearances on TV by PR-coached “experts” are coordinated as “message force multipliers.” PR front groups, funded by the oligarchy, make it difficult for reporters to sort out.

As an example of the influence of PR, the health insurance industry paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight public health care. The Chamber, in turn, paid for ads that ran in 21 states. As the senior VP of communications at the Chamber noted, they also set up coalition groups to push the message online and in the press.

One of the areas the Chamber targets is college campuses. It even hosts video competitions on Facebook.


KXL Opponents Causing Disaster

As noted in the New York Post, Keystone pipeline opponents are partly responsible for the environmental disasters and human catastrophes caused by exploding oil trains. Had these misguided liberals given any thought to their KXL protests, they would have found they were being herded by people on the bomb train payroll, and that their protests would not stop Tar Sands mining or Bakken Shale fracking; they would, however, make a lot of money for railroad magnates like Warren Buffett.

Duped liberals will undoubtedly plead innocent to the charge, but ignorance is no excuse, especially when the KXL charade was known from the outset as a Buffett/350 PR hoax.

While this uncomfortable truth might cause some anguish and despair among liberal activists, it is way past time for them to wake up and smell the coffee. Our civilization is dependent on fossil fuels, and while so-called clean energy is fine in the few limited circumstances where it can help reduce carbon emissions, the reality is that only significant reduction in consumption will make any difference. Playing PR shell games with peoples lives at stake is utterly unforgivable.

PR vs. News

In their recent book, “The Death and Life of American Journalism,” Robert McChesney and John Nichols tracked the number of people working in journalism since 1980 and compared it to the numbers for public relations. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they found that the number of journalists has fallen drastically while public relations people have multiplied at an even faster rate. In 1980, there were about .45 PR workers per 100,000 population compared with .36 journalists. In 2008, there were .90 PR people per 100,000 compared to .25 journalists. That’s a ratio of more than three-to-one, better equipped, better financed.

PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking Newsrooms, Pro Publica