Wednesday, January 23, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 77



Public relations fudge the truth

Brandon Moeller

Public relations, for all its modern practical purposes, is the work of the devil.

For communication students, this is a fact that will probably go unmentioned in a majority of your courses. For the general public, this is
unnoticed and flies without criticism while its effects are present in most aspects of daily life.

But for responsible journalists, the corrosion the public relations industry has made on the truth industry is real and ultimately affects the liberty
and freedoms they have guarded for centuries.

When I mention "responsible journalists," I mean the highly trained professional seekers of truth who do not write stories based on the spin of
press releases or pundits. Real journalists base their news coverage on the urgency and importance a story holds for the people in the
community, big business be damned.

Responsible journalists know the public relations industry is the work of the devil because they know who the devils are, whether it be big
business or politicians with an ear for only big business.

Don't believe me? Ponder why people need things. Why do people need journalists? To stay informed. Why do people need public relations
practitioners? To stay misinformed. The only reason the public relations industry exists is because businesses need people to smooth over their

When a corporation spills oil, the boss needs someone to give a press conference that highlights the good the corporation has done for the
environment and minimize the public reaction to the bad.

This, of course, is not a hard task. That's why public relations practitioners outnumber journalists in the United States by 130,000 to 150,000.

Since most of the newsrooms in this country are themselves corporations, and since corporations are real efficient when it comes to downsizing,
the gap is widening at a rate that will not be published on page one of your corporate Hearst daily.

Because if you can't find a job in news, and if you don't take well to waiting tables, you must cross over to the dark side of public relations.

Some of the best public relations practitioners are former journalists from the best newspapers, for they're the ones with the contacts and abilities
to get their corporations' untruths into print as incognito as possible. For the best PR men are invisible men.

How much money do you think corporations spend to help the environment? To essentially destroy the environment (why else would they need
to distract the public with how they help the environment if their main business isn't to hurt it)?

Public relations practitioners are needed to make sure the egocentric arrogant money-grubbing gods and masters, like William Vanderbilt, don't
ruin their own enterprises when a microphone is placed in their faces.

Back in the day when mass transportation meant getting on a train, Vanderbilt controlled the New York Central Railroad. When a reporter
suggested the train schedules accommodate the public, Vanderbilt defiantly retorted, "The public be damned."

The public went nuts. The New York legislature forced Vanderbilt to sell off some of his many holdings in the railroad industry. 

And the word got out to the other gods and masters: It's better to pay someone who knows how to manipulate the truth to talk for you than risk
your own butt over your own stupid mouth.

For the most part, whenever you see a quote in the newspaper from a real god or master, a real Ken Lay sort, it was probably fabricated in the
bowels of the corporation's public relations office. In fact, the reporter probably never spoke to the powerful chief executive officer who was more
reasonably on the golf course anyway.

All of this and more can be further explored in John C. Stauber and Sheldon Rampton's book Toxic Sludge is Good for You: Lies, Damn Lies
and the Public Relations Industry, available on the third-floor reserve desk of your M.D. Anderson Memorial Library.

Moeller, a senior communication
major, can be reached at

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