Granted, entertainment publicists are accessories to some of our culture's greatest crimes (i.e. The Anna Nicole Show), but some are also responsible for leading the charge against things even worse than Swept Away. Many publicists I know devote hours of free time bringing critical media attention to important social and humanitarian causes. (I, myself, fully intend to do some charity work once football season is over.) For every Lizzie "serving 60" Grubman plowing over a herd of club-goers, there's a Jennifer Kutner doing vital pro bono work. In her case, it's on behalf of animal rights organizations.
A veteran LA-based publicist involved in award shows and special events, Kutner has publicized celebrity fundraisers and pet adoption days for rescue groups including Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, New Leash on Life, Los Angeles Animal Services, and Worldfest, a vegetarian/animal festival.
The volunteer efforts of PR pros like Kutner have generated great awareness of animal issues in the last decade, leading to significant improvements in laws and attitudes.
Using her Hollywood contacts and experience, Kutner dangles celebrity carrots in front of star-hungry media.
Kutner says that Entertainment Tonight and People magazine, for example, almost always want a celebrity tie-in with their issues stories. "People listen when a celebrity speaks," she noted. "We've been fortunate that so many have been willing to support our cause."
According to Kutner, even hard news outlets are enticed by the lure of celebrity-endorsed causes, and this has helped lend considerable attention and legitimacy to animal-ethics issues.
"What began as mentions in underground sources have grown into full-blown exposes, as journalists realize that they can do serious investigative reporting, and that the movement can back up its claims," remarked Kutner.
"Now they're even contacting us seeking content."
Along with major daily newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, columnists including The LA Times' Howard Rosenberg, and national and international news magazine programs such as ABC's PrimeTime Live and CNN's Larry King Live have done serious pieces. But when it comes to horrifying accounts of animal abuse, Kutner says tabloids such as The National Enquirer and Hard Copy are the most receptive, as they embrace graphic pictures and reports that mainstream media shy away from. An exception is the recently-premiered TV news magazine Celebrity Justice, which has aired several animal abuse investigations by reporter Jane Velez-Mitchell.
"The 6 pm news will show the bloodiest dead human body, but considers animal violence too disturbing for its viewers," said Kutner. "But it isn't until you actually see abuse footage that you can fathom that such brutality exists."
Thanks to volunteer publicists like Kutner, national attention is now given to The Ark Trust - named after Noah's ark, the first animal rescue mission - and its annual Genesis Awards, which honor media in more than 20 categories for addressing this issue. Remember that when you're cursing the unseen flack responsible for bringing Johnny Knoxville to your attention.