Public relations: not
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
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
former local business leaders who hunger
to taint the campus culture and replace it with corporate culture. Reference
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
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
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
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
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
thought about their world and how it is
portrayed: Thanks for making the "wrangle of the marketplace (of ideas),"
Burke put it, more interesting. But please
refrain from kicking me.