Wednesday, January 30, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 82


 
 









 

Public relations: not inherently evil

Brandon Moeller

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

If you missed my outcry about the evils of corporate public relations in last week's column, "Public relations fudge the truth,"
then this will serve as a clarification of the seemingly jaded opinions expressed.

But moving on, it should be said that not all public relations is the work of the devil.

It didn't really take getting one e-mail response, one letter to the editor and one kick on the knee from a fellow communication
student for me to realize it.

There are PR people who work to benefit this diverse multiversity we all call home for a brief period each week.

On another note, I call it a "multiversity" because that is what it really is, and the term "university" sounds too much what they
want it to be, as more and more U.S. college campus decision-making is made by boards of regents. These boards consist of
former local business leaders who hunger to taint the campus culture and replace it with corporate culture. Reference the
Coca-Cola contract on this campus.

Of course, there's no real money in intellectualism, and money is what enables the Bauer School of Business to have a stock
ticker and four large television screens (showing two channels: CNN and CNBC) in Melcher Hall.

My goals for last week's column were to express the difficulties of competing with corporate-backed flacks in portraying truth
and ethics in a mass media environment.

In essence, all PR practitioners really want to do is keep bringing home food to their tables. In truth, their jobs are similar to
many other jobs in this country, where the general task is to follow orders without caving in to emotional and logical
sensibilities.

Irresponsible PR practitioners know who they are. I hope they have trouble sleeping at night.

But the rest of them work in the non-profit sector and promote research done by organizations or activist groups, or they strive
to get quality information from their gods and masters and use that to inform, not manipulate, the public.

The most atrocious form of irresponsible public relations is when it is used to block books from entering the marketplace of
ideas like when the nation's sixth-largest PR firm, Ketchum, tried to squash Savid Steinman's 1990 book Diet for a
Poisoned Planet, which discussed toxicology levels of California raisins.

Other books that have been blocked include May All Be Fed by John Robbins, DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain by Gerald
Colby Zilg, Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin and The War Against the Greens by David Helvarg.

For those who have responded to my column about public relations, and for those who haven't but have allowed it to trigger
thought about their world and how it is portrayed: Thanks for making the "wrangle of the marketplace (of ideas)," as Kenneth
Burke put it, more interesting. But please refrain from kicking me. 

Moeller, a senior communication 
major, can be reached at brandonmoeller@hotmail.com.


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