PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Ratings stunt exposes Reed's bad judgment

It's been said that journalism is in decline, and it's getting hard to disagree.

It's been said that journalism is in decline, and it's getting hard to disagree.

Newspaper circulation is down. Bloggers are blurring the line between fact and fantasy. Even Dan Rather can't get it straight anymore. Throw in Jayson Blair and the retirement of the last great generation of TV anchors, and it's enough to make you burn your Bacon's. Burning your bra, however, helps no one. Unless, perhaps, you are local Cleveland anchorperson Sharon Reed, who exposed all last week in an effort to jazz up her ratings during the all-important November sweeps. In a segment taped over the summer, Reed participated in a massive group photo of sans-clothing Clevelanders snapped by artist Spencer Tunick. "No other anchorperson in the world has done this," Reed assured reporters, and we're happy to take her word for it. What we question is if this was a "streak" that needed to end. To be fair, Tunick is a recognized and respected photographer, and pictures of naked crowds are his signature craft. And nowhere is it written that nudity for art's sake is antithetical to journalistic integrity. But art is art, and a cheap PR stunt is, well, what this was. How do you tell the difference? The network's constant promos featuring a scandalous adults-only warning, coupled with Reed's predictions of instant internet fame, were a pretty good tip-off. If Reed's only objective was to see her name in print, she certainly pulled it off. But pulling everything off to achieve that will hardly help her be taken seriously as a newsperson. "The journalism elite will say what they have to say," Reed remarked, "but who are [they] to tell me how it's done?" No one - unless one day you want to work for them.
  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's Washington, DC, bureau chief. Ratings: 1. Clueless 2. Ill-advised 3. On the right track 4. Savvy 5. Ingenious

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