Accuracy in Media

It was a big story for the liberal media that they had finally caught a conservative journalist or commentator doing something wrong. They found out that Armstrong Williams had taken federal money through a public relations firm. But our journalists know something about public relations, too. The Associated Press reported in January that journalism organizations are planning a nationwide campaign in March, dubbed “Sunshine Week,” to press the case for freedom of information and the right to know. According to AP, “For a week beginning March 13, news outlets will run stories, editorials and cartoons on the subject.”

This is nothing but a public relations campaign by, of and for the media.

It just so happens, according to AP, that Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, is part of the effort. AP quotes him as saying, “From city hall to Congress, and from police chiefs’ offices to the attorney general’s office, the trend toward secrecy is unmistakable. The most important thing from our standpoint, of course, is to connect what we do to the public interest, and to line up with the people and remind them how important it is that they get access to what their elected representatives are doing.”

Isn’t it nice that the media report favorably on initiatives from the media? But isn’t it curious that AP runs a story on the subject quoting the president of AP and no one who questions what the campaign is all about? Fortunately, there is a publication called PR Week, which covers the public relations industry. And when it found out about “Sunshine Week,” it seemed to recognize a public relations stunt. What’s more, PR Week journalist Erica Iacono came to Accuracy in Media for comment.

Here’s what she reported: “While the concept of Sunshine Week is something that should be applauded, Cliff Kincaid, editor of the Accuracy in Media report, notes that the fact that the media is behind it is ‘ironic.’ ‘The media has a big credibility problem with saying that they want to shine the light on government activities when so much of what journalism does has been exposed as less than honest,’ he says. ‘Let’s face it: not enough light has been shed on journalism practices.’

“Certain practices by journalists, such as using anonymous sources, Kincaid says, are almost counterintuitive to an initiative like Sunshine Week. He adds that the public might not be receptive to being told to ask for a more open government when the media itself won’t open up.

“‘How can we believe the media is going to shine the light on government when so much of what they report is based on secret sources?’ he asks. ‘I agree that the government has to be held to a higher standard. But for the media to come out and say they’re going to do it when they’ve failed so miserably is laughable.’

“Kincaid says Sunshine Week could be nothing more than an attempt at an image makeover. ‘This is a public relations effort on their part,’ he says. ‘They’re trying to look good to the American people. They’re trying to climb out of their own credibility problem by saying to the American people, ‘We’re really on your side.'”

“‘They have to shine the light on their own operations, too,’ Kincaid says. ‘They can’t shine the light on government unless they’re more honest about their own failings.'”

Thank you PR Week for getting the story straight. When Sunshine Week comes, AIM will be there to shine the light on the media. We wonder if they will be able to take it.

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