Is it PR or spin?

With his interview of Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, Ted McKenna has shown remarkable insight into our government's official international PR operations.

With his interview of Karen Hughes, the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs, Ted McKenna has shown remarkable insight into our government's official international PR operations.

Hughes has countered with the equally remarkable talent for spin that she has demonstrated in her current role and as an earlier spokeswoman for the Bush administration.

Both Hughes and McKenna have given it their best shots. They must dance again sometime when Hughes has something new to report.

Wes Pedersen
Principal, Wes Pedersen Communications and PR
Washington

Don't rely on the herd

In response to "Crowdsourcing tests yield mixed results" (PRWeek, July 30), relying on the masses to produce information is like depending on group immunity from polio or measles - it doesn't work and is based on the premise that large numbers of people in agreement equal the truth.

Using your example of current information transmitted in an emergency situation, one only has to look back at the misinformation that came out of New Orleans after Katrina. Reports of murders and rapes were rumors treated as fact; a belief that the government blew up the levees was passed around as if there was evidence. It wasn't individuals who got the story on the news; it was individuals who got the story to news organizations, who then followed individual accounts - badly, and often without proper fact checking.

Jeff Howe denigrates his own profession by suggesting that facts aren't interesting and that journalistic writing is bad. There is a lot of bad writing out there, much of it by "citizen journalists" and some by journalists, as newsrooms have cut experienced, higher-paid writers. By the survey's own results, sifting through the chaff to find some grains of truth is a full-time job.

Some stories are boring. Ever try a city council meeting? Those boring meetings are where important things that affect everyone are decided. Journalists and news organizations have a public obligation to cover these things. Addressing that obligation gives the press its status as the Fourth Estate.

I wouldn't want an untrained surgeon operating on me. While people can see something, and then string words together, it doesn't make them journalists.

Without support resources - research, data, contacts, accessible libraries - crowdsourcing is simply opinion based on a narrow view. There is no such thing as the wisdom of crowds, only mass hysteria, mass delusion, groupthink, and pack mentality.

People are mistaking the technological tools of delivery for cures for journalism's ills.
It's not how you get the news; it's getting the news that makes you a journalist.

Mary McFadden
Freelance writer
San Francisco

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in