Newsweek Gets Press, and Controversy, With Bitcoin Story

 Newsweek Gets Press, and Controversy, With Bitcoin Story

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Newsweek.

Venerable news journal Newsweek returned to the stands on Friday after a 14-month absence. Clearly a big cover story was needed, and they had one: the identity of the founder of Bitcoin, the digital currency with mysterious origins. Apparently, there’s still some mystery – and a lot of controversy over the article.

Newsweek reporter Leah McGrath Goodman said she had proof that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto was the founder of Bitcoin. Nakamoto, described by the New York Times as “a reclusive train collector,” then gave a two-hour interview to AP denying Newsweek‘s claims. At the heart of the debate is a brief conversation that took place outside Nakamoto’s home; Goodman’s interpretation of his response to questions about Bitcoin was that he was the founder. Nakamoto says he misunderstood her questions.

The magazine issued a statement saying they stand by the story, with well-worded acknowledgement of the online attacks toward Goodman, her reporting, even her character. Others in the media are calling into question Goodman’s proof and journalistic ethics. Given that Bitcoin has recently given investors a tumultuous ride, some speculate the Newsweek article has put Nakamoto in danger, without strong enough proof of association.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Newsweek.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: With great risk, there are two outcomes: great rewards, or spectacularly bad problems. Clearly, Newsweek needed a big story after over a year off the stands and many questioning the future of print media. (A few might also scratch their heads as to why the online version gives free access to the entire feature; isn’t the point of magazines to sell magazines, not give the content away?) This explosive story gave Newsweek the media splash they needed, and the negative attention they never wanted. Well, they got people talking. Should their sources be proven wrong, they may wish they’d gone with something slightly quieter.

The PRV Report Card: Winners & Losers

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.16.52 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersPR Winner: “A” (PR Perfect) for the Republicans who have turned up the heat on the Obama’s second term. If true that life comes at you in threes, then this week was the triumvirate of PR gifts. Obama found himself on the back foot regarding the IRS/ Tea Party scandal, the Justice Department/AP phone record snooping, and finally the ongoing thorn in the side of the Administration that is Benghazi. No matter the merits, the concerted drum beating has been an effective PR attack. Objective one: change the news agenda and place the Administration on the defensive, unable to talk about what it wants to talk about. For this week at least, mission accomplished.

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.17.58 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersPR Loser: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Barbara Walters and the media reaction to her announcement that she is stepping down. In what will be her long goodbye to broadcasting, America’s famous interviewer announced that she would be phasing herself out during a series of programmed appearances and TV specials over the next twelve months. Online and columnist reactions to her career were astonishingly scathing. Slammed as lightweight, fawning and inconsequential the reaction could have only made unhappy bedtime reading for Babs’ PR team. A couple more glowing endorsements from journalists who think Babs paved the way for other women might have given the coverage some more balance. For Babs and her team, this might be a tough twelve months.

Screen Shot 2013 05 16 at 7.19.58 PM 150x150 The PRV Report Card: Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD TO Kylie Busutti, a former Victoria’s Secret model currently touting her book I’m No Angel. In her sad tale, Ms. Busutti recounts being shocked – shocked! – to find out that models are required to be absurdly thin and that Victoria’s Secret apparel is sexy, apparently too sexy for Busutti’s Christian faith. We’re not sure what deserted island this young woman grew up on, but these are hardly revelations. There is something rank, too, about claiming a moral high ground that wouldn’t let her continue in such a tawdry profession but does, apparently, permit trying to capitalize on it.

Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

 Murdoch, Think Before You Tweet!

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for Rupert Murdoch.

When it comes to controversial tweets or scandalous emails, one of the more predictable cries from the media is to ask, what was this person thinking? Every smarty-pants commentator let’s us know: Nothing is private, all is public. Don’t write it if you don’t want it on the front page.

Apparently, media mogul Rupert Murdoch hasn’t been listening; he just learned his humiliating lesson in the world of social media the hard way. His Twitter followers were presumably puzzled by his Tweet this past Sunday that accused the “Jewish owned press” of favoring Gaza over Israel in news coverage concerning the latest military action. He asked his followers, which number over 360,000, “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”

Immediately, the commentators were wondering who could Rupert have been referring to. In previous Tweets, Murdoch complained of  “CNN and AP bias to point of embarrassment.” But as neither are “Jewish owned,” the comments seemed genuinely confusing. The wider consensus is that The New York Times, his US foe in the newspaper world, was the target. But the mystery now looks like it will never be solved.  Murdoch apologized unreservedly, describing his Tweet as “awkward and inappropriate,” adding he should not have brought in “irrelevant and incorrect ethnic matters.” Case closed.

The PR Verdict: “D” (PR Problematic) for one of the world’s leading media tycoons. However, it’s touching to realize that even a media mogul can get social media wrong.

The PR Takeaway: Press “pause” before “send.” The Murdoch incident is a flash in the PR pan, but it does show that even the most experienced media practitioners can get it very wrong. What’s obvious with the benefit of hindsight is sometimes not obvious at the time. Murdoch might want someone in his entourage to check Tweets before sending them; this is not a one-on-one conversation, after all. Take note, Wendi.

To read more, click here.

Ahmadinejad Courts Satan’s Media

 Ahmadinejad Courts Satans Media

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for yet another loony Ahmadinejad appearance at the UN.

Do the rules of PR apply to President Ahmadinejad of Iran? In New York for the UN Summit, he has participated in a dizzying media blitz of interviews including CNN, CBS, the AP, and other national outlets. The Iranian President, who has previously described the US as “Satan,” seems oddly keen to court domestic US opinion, or at the very least, take advantage of Great Satan’s media.

His scheduled interviews appeared to be part of a typical PR curtain raiser, designed to drum up anticipation for his speech before the UN. He told CNN and other outlets that his main message is that he wants “a new world order for all of humanity.”

Ahmadinejad describes this new world order as a world where there is “justice, morality, purity, and compassion.” He can’t help mentioning that this utopia would ultimately involve the “elimination” of Israel, although he softened his message by saying he would be neutral on the issue of his child marrying a Jew. If Ahmadinejad’s intention was to court US opinion – and why else talk to all the outlets – his messaging was clearly irreconcilable with most US mainstream views.

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for yet another loony Ahmadinejad appearance at the UN, buttressed by a thorough PR blitz that guaranteed coverage while doing nothing to enhance credibility.

The PR Takeaway: The most basic PR lesson is “Without trust, nothing works.” Ahmadinejad said in multiple US interviews that he would “not dismiss” one-on-one talks with America on his nuclear program and that he was open to negotiation. If his PR intention was to soften US domestic opinion,  then his PR offensive was a resounding failure. As long as he continues to trade in his grab bag of hate names and villains, then his PR blitz only reinforces the perception that he is not to be trusted, notwithstanding his plea at the UN to “hold hands with all of humanity.”

Have you heard the Iranian President’s speech at the UN? Give us your PR Verdict!