Hardly anyone reading PR blogs could have escaped last week’s hoopla about Jay Rosen’s attack on PR bloggers accusing PR bloggers of ignoring the Armstrong Williams-Ketchum affair. For those of you who missed the whole thing, I list some links at the bottom of this post.
Now it seems that yet another journalist got paid to promote an initiative from the Bush administration. Maggie Gallagher had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president’s initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families. But she failed to disclose it. In her syndicated column she dismissed the arguments against “President Bush’s modest marriage initiative” as “nonsense”.
“Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?” Gallagher said yesterday. “I don’t know. You tell me.” She said she would have “been happy to tell anyone who called me” about the contract but that “frankly, it never occurred to me” to disclose it.
Duh, yes, that would be pretty obviuos.
Later in the day, Gallagher filed a column in which she said that “I should have disclosed a government contract when I later wrote about the Bush marriage initiative. I would have, if I had remembered it. My apologies to my readers.”
It never occured to her, and she didn’t remember. How lame is that?
Considering Jay Rosen’s response, it is important for both PR professionals and journalists to clearly state that the practice of payola is not acceptable.
Footnote: Links about the Armstrong Williams debacle:
Jan 7: USA Today reveals that PR agency Ketchum paid Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind initiative.
Jan 7: Richard Edelman responds.
Jan 9: Jeremy Pepper responds.
Jan 11: Half-hearted response from PRSA.
Jan 14: Shel Holz comments.
Jan 19: Jay Rosen blasts the PR blogosphere for not commenting enough about the incident. PR bloggers try (and succeed to some extent) to prove him wrong and that his research is shallow.
Jan 20: Lisa Stone at PressThink does a follow up.
Jan 20: NY Times (reg required) about Ketchum’s apology.
Jan 21: Shel Holz again.
Jan 21: Elizabeth Albrycht