The New York Times and When Not To Publish

 The New York Times and When Not To Publish

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times. (Pictured: Times editor Jill Abramson.)

When does The New York Times decide it won’t publish something on the grounds that it might impinge on national security? It’s a question the paper of record has had to address recently. An angry Congress wants clarification, as do some readers. What to say?

The controversy stems from recent articles published in the NY TImes about President Obama’s “kill list,” as well as the U.S. government’s computer virus warfare against Iran.  Obama’s critics claim the information came directly from the White House in order to bolster the President’s tough image on national security. Obama’s PR says this is dead wrong and that the President is intent on cracking down on staff leaking classified information.

The Times‘s defense? It always consults with government officials prior to publication. The paper confirms that government officials had not asked the paper to spike the two stories in question, and it rejects any suggestion that national security was endangered. “No story about details of government secrets has come near to demonstrably hurting the national security in decades and decades,” is the official quote. Case closed for The New York Times (for the moment).

The PR Verdict: C (Distinctly OK) for The New York Times, whose response still keeps the decision to publish or not in the realm of a high level of discretion. Something more objective might help the debate.

PR Takeaway: Freedom of speech and public interest rest on a continuum of interest and competing concerns. The Times has chosen to portray the issues as relatively straightforward – dangerous to release, or not? Why not talk about the issue as a long continuum with transparency at one end and secrecy on the other. List and weigh factors that might have a bearing on publication. Think of it as a point system; it will undoubtedly be imperfect, but it would change the debate from a discretion-based decision to something more independent and apolitical.

To read more, click here.

Is The New York Times releasing information that could compromise national security, or exercising the freedom of press? Give us your PR Verdict, below.

How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

essencebeyonce1 How About A Pulitzer for Beyoncé?

PR Verdict: “F” For Essence’s cynical and embarrassing ploy.

Does anyone else find something vaguely ridiculous about Beyoncé being awarded a prize for journalism by Essence magazine? On May 15th, the New York Association of Black Journalists in association with the magazine, will award Beyoncé first-place prize in “arts and entertainment writing” in its magazine category.  There are 39 other winners who will also receive an award on the night.  What a surprise to realise that award winning journalism is being written at the rate of one article every nine days!

Beyoncé’s cover story from last year, called derivatively,  “Eat, Play, Love” has been named best in category and chronicled her 9-month sabbatical from her hectic recording career.   Written in the first-person, the article  gave readers an insight into the breakthroughs Beyoncé enjoyed while travelling the world.

Readers looking for insights will be delighted to know that Beyoncé discovered  she “loved artichokes and that a salad and fresh fish are not only healthy choices but incredibly delicious.”   In the article she also noted that “All over Italy, the streets smell like gelato.”  Did even she realise that this was award winning stuff?

The PR Verdict: “F” For Essence Magazine and its cynical and embarrassing ploy to garner publicity for its award show.  Column inches have been secured but most are vaguely derisory.  Bad move.

PR Takeaway:  Not all publicity is good publicity.  This is one case where the snarky tone of most of the coverage of the upcoming event has already diminished the value and integrity of the 39 other prizewinners.  Getting a celebrity to attend is one thing, giving her a prize for journalism is quite another.   Does Beyoncé need another prize?  She could have been easily comforted by one of her 16 Grammy awards if she was feeling blue.

To read  more click here and here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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