Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It Still Happens 

For those old enough to remember, before Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon, reporters were lax about gifts and "gimmes." In fact, they were so lax, that many made up for slim salaries with holiday and other gifts that poured in from PR types. Some reporters were so efficient about their taking that they specified to PR practitioners exactly what they wanted -- and demanded that they get it.

After Watergate, American media put an end to much of this. The appearance of payoff was too much for reporters who were coming under the same scrutiny as legislators. The supposed words of a great California legislator, Jesse M. Unruh, made no difference anymore: "You have to be able to take their money, drink their booze, screw their women and then go out and vote against them the next day."

Good reporters had, in fact, divorced boodling from reporting, but not all did. That is why it is surprising that some reporters continue to grasp for gimmes. This story from the Boston Herald is an eyeopener. It is interesting that PR practitioners supplied the fellow with so much. Many years ago, we backed off on such gift-giving, and we advised clients to do so as well.

There will always be room for some freebies from PR practitioners to journalists, but it should be small amounts and highly controlled. It is an expense and risk that PR doesn' t need.


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