HOW POLITICANS AND THEIR PUBLICISTS TOOK OVER THE PRESS
Did you know that over the last couple of years a battle has raged between the PR people and the press to see who would control the news? You didn’t. Well, neither did most of the journalists. That’s why the PR people won.
The nation’s newspapers have already tacitly acknowledged their imminent demise, laying off reporters en masse, eliminating sections, replacing investigative reporting with fluff, and barely coming out with new stories any more on weekends. This decay has caused devastating industry-wide shockwaves to the overall quality of journalism in this country, since the majority of television news shows now consist of anchors reading stories from the morning paper, and internet news sources like The Huffington Post and The Raw Story largely depend upon the daily papers for content.
Meanwhile, politicians, developers, and CEOs have rubbed their hands together with nefarious glee, thrilled to finally be rid of the pesky reporters that used to keep them honest. While the wounded media has stumbled, politicians have quickly seized the opportunity to spin, scheme, and steal with impunity – and they’ve done so with greater skill than ever before.
Rather than hiring staffers to work on boring stuff like legislation, our elected officials have instead used our tax dollars to hire marketing gurus to give them fabulous, ultra-chic PR makeovers. Take State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, who recently recruited Christopher Sealey to be the State Senate’s first ever “creative director”. Sealey, who, according to a mind-numbingly vacuous profile in New York Magazine, “was shocked the government would want someone like me,” is a top-of-the-line image craftsman, who makes big money turning the stodgy into the super cool.
“You look at Obama, and he created nothing short of a brand for himself,” enthuses Sealey. “We’re not trying to create a brand (we’re already elected), but we do want better communications techniques. I’m in charge of the design, photography, and multimedia that comes out of the Senate. We’ve brought in designers who have worked for Nike, Spike TV, and HBO; we just launched a new website; and we’re getting in touch with people on Facebook and Twitter.”
In other words, Smith, like so many other politicians now, realized that it was more important to look like he was doing a good job than to actually do one. And by populating his staff with savvy marketers, PR veterans, and former journalists with could shill stories to their much lower-paid former colleagues, he could turn, for instance, months of incompetence in Albany dealing with the MTA fare hikes that ended in a stop-gap 25 cent increase, into a slew of glowing front page stories in the media, praising Smith for saving the City from worse financial ruin.
Smith’s shrewd PR machine is just one of the dynamos driving the media these days. Nearly every successful elected official has staffers whose main job is to cozy up to reporters and whisper sweet nothings into their columns. Indeed, so widespread and influential is this blurring of the lines between press and PR that the members of the media – particularly the young journalists who the newspapers hired for pennies on the dollar to replace their experienced predecessors – don’t even realize that there’s something very, very wrong in their newsrooms.
How did this happen?
You see, our politicians understood the press better than the press understood itself. The press, which has a bad habit of romanticizing its standing in the eyes of the American public, assumed that it would weather the slings and arrows of the changing media landscape, if for no other reason than the fact that people want to read what’s going on in the world every morning. In a way, the newspapers were right. People do want news with their coffee, but the mistake the old gray lions of the media made was to assume that the survival of the media meant that real journalism would endure too.
What our politicians grasped immediately, however, is that as long as the people gets their daily dose of sports, comics, and celebrities, they would be unfazed if the rest of the news shifted subtly over time from reportage to propaganda. That’s why, rather than killing their old nemesis, the politicians were happy to let the media chug on under their influence. Just ask Mayor Bloomberg how helpful the press can be. As long as the media doesn’t ask any unpleasant questions, they can repeat press releases word for word as if they were legitimate stories, lionize our leaders, and discredit dissenting voices.
PR people have always viewed the press as free advertising – better than free, really, because the people who subscribe to the press don’t even know they’re being sold a product. Once upon a time, reporters fought back against PR people to protect the integrity of their papers. Nowadays, reporters are grateful to publicists for relieving them of the time-consuming work of actual investigation.
But no one is more happy than our politicians. As long as they can keep spinning worthless yarn into PR gold, their lies and incompetence will never be unraveled.
Nobody Asked Me, But. . . "Mayoral campaigns are more style over substance," so said Weiner in an article giving his reasons to pull out of the mayor's race. Hey Weiner how did Candidate Obama got his message of change through and is making good on his promise? What stop Weiner from doing the same? Somehow I don't think we not getting the real deal from the congressman. Bloomberg had the same billions to spend in 2005 when Weiner ran and did well. If anything the Term Limits extension and the city's economic crisis have made the mayor weaker this time around. Why I’m Not Running for Mayor By ANTHONY WEINER, Weiner Explains: 'Why I'm Not Running For Mayor' . . . Paterson's bark is bigger than his bite: Despite press conference that call for deep budget cuts, worker layoffs and now ethics reform, little has been accomplished besides one or two days of good press for the governor. The budget passed was not cut, yesterday we hear there will not be 9000 state layoffs and today legislative leaders were privately calling Gov. Paterson's hastily prepared ethics-reform proposal dead on arrival GOV'S ETHICS REFORM KAPUT, Pols cool to gov's plan on tightening ethics laws . . . $15 beach chairs in times square, the former crossroads of the world, is not the class act the city's wants to show to the world REAL NYERS 'MALLED' BY INCREDIBLY DUMB IDEA . . . Who will be responsible when birds cause death at the NY airport? City Hopes Birds Ignore LGA Garbage Facility, Congress threatens mayor's transfer station . . . To save money every major construction project in the city has cut back Delay in plan to link Penn and Grand Central other effects of budget cuts are already being seen in services Failure to fix hazards on subway platforms, Nightmare MTA cuts live on in street map . . . More signs that Manhattan tax base is eroding Manhattan Is Awash in Sublet Office Space . . . He a guy who many reporters use one line sound bites to advance their stories, getting it wrong again, Doug Muzzio, you were right. . . What will happen to this Weiner-obsessed site? and the millions Bloomberg spent investigating him?
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Albany SILVER BARES PLAN TO KEEP MAYOR AT SCHOOLS' HELM *** Shinnecock Indians Contemplate a Casino as They Close In on Federal Recognition *** Silver's plan for mayoral school control *** A new website makes public civil service exam scores *** Paterson proposes ethics reform overhaul *** Ken Adams pens an op-ed giving Albany recommendations on how to avoid killing job growth *** Dan Janison writes that Sonia Sotomayor would bring a “New York vibe” to the Supreme Court *** Bill Hammond writes about how the Rockefeller druge reform creates a loophole that would allow drug offenders to have their records sealed, which would allow them access to sensitive jobs *** Paterson still has record-low poll numbers *** Lawmakers weigh in on ethics, with caution *** NYPIRG's Russ Haven says the lobbyists "got to the ticket scalping extender bill" that is poised for passage by the Legislature.
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President Obama Army chief: Troops could be in Iraq after 2012 *** NORTH KOREAN NUKES: O'S KICK IN THE TEETH *** Obama promotes clean energy, stimulus in Nevada *** Obama raises money for Democrats out West *** Obama welcomes South Korea to anti-nuke group *** Obama Integrates Security Councils, Adds Offices *** 44: Obama Jets to Vegas to Help Senate Leader *** Gates: Optimistic on Weapons Cuts *** U.S. Revamps National Security Posts *** What SCOTUS pick says about Obama *** VIDEO: White House talking points *** Obama strengthens ties with Latinos *** Obama's Nevada announcement *** Officials gave Bilderberg briefings *** OBAMA TO CREATE INTERNET 'CZAR'; BROAD MANDATE... *** Army Chief: US Could Be In Iraq For 10 More Years *** Dubya's New Pad *** Cheney Shows the Way - Pat Buchanan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review *** The Mellowing of William Jefferson Clinton *** Geithner to Meet With China Leaders
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National Prop 8 Upheld in Court, Gay Marriage Proponents Turn to Politics *** Building It Big in Las Vegas *** FDA Chief Signals Public-Health Focus *** COLUMBUS SCARE: Police chief warns of deep cuts without tax increase... Police officers saved by stimulus may still lose jobs... *** Race Row at Harvard *** Sacramento's main psychiatric hospital closes... *** Toledo police layoffs leading to gun buying...
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People and Places Mark Cuban's battle with SEC heats up *** Brooke Astor's son hellbent to sell Park Ave. apartment
Blog Report Are Towns' Days Numbered? (Room Eight) *** Clash Of The Titans: Big Development, Silver And News In Slap-Down (Next Gen Dems) *** Questions In Coney Zoning (Noticing New York) *** Young Republicans Meet Tonight In The Heights 6:30 (Brooklyn Heights Blog) *** Weiner Drops Out Of Mayoral Race: The Implications Of Powerlessness (Daily Gotham) *** Gowanus Clean-Up: Pros vs Amateurs (Pardon Me For Asking) *** Washington Sq. Park: Designs Over Time - Presentation Tonight At 6 (Washington Square Park)