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.

What Did Ryan O’Neal Describe As Pointless?

ryan oneal1 What Did Ryan ONeal Describe As Pointless?

The PR Verdict: “C” for Ryan O’Neal for an interview he was struggling to get through.

Why was there a band-aid on Ryan O’Neal’s nose during his interview with Matt Lauer on Today?  The former film icon has just published a memoir of his thirty year relationship with the equally famous Farrah Fawcett, called Both of Us.   The book he said is not a tell all – but rather a tribute to the highs and lows of their volatile relationship.   Bizarrely, the distracting band-aid remained on his nose for the entire interview and was never mentioned.

This was however the second attempt at an interview.  The first interview never got off the ground with O’Neal leaving the studio in a frantic hurry after what he later conceded might have a been a panic attack.  “I don’t know what was wrong,” he confessed to Matt Lauer second time around. “I just broke out into a terrible sweat, so I just went home.”

His second interview was emotional and full of stops and starts.  He talked of his family’s problems including Fawcett’s addiction to antibiotics.  Lauer quoted O’Neal in the memoir as saying the couple’s behaviors arose because “we both had a feeling of leading pointless lives.”  O’Neal looked genuinely startled.  “Did I say pointless?” he asked rhetorically.  Even Matt Lauer didn’t know where to turn.

The PR Verdict:  “C” for Ryan O’Neal for an interview he was clearly summoning all his energy to get through.  A gentler print interview might have been a better route for this client.

PR Takeaway:  This interview had the hallmarks of a sympathetic therapist talking to a troubled patient.  Sometimes it might be better to give the PR prize of a national interview a pass, and stick with some gentler, less exposing forms of publicity.

To read more and see the interview click here.

What ‘s your PR Verdict?

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