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.

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

Vatican’s Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

 Vaticans Defense: Leaked Documents Are Work of Satan

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR.

Apparently the Lord is not the only one who moves in mysterious ways. Now the Vatican says it needs to factor the Devil himself into its PR planning. Wondering why current leaks are destabilizing the Vatican and creating havoc in the traditionally hushed institution? The Vatican says the current scandal involving leaked documents and allegations about its financial dealings–known as Vati-Leaks–is the work of Satan.

This startling theocratic explanation comes from none other than Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who apparently ranks second only to Pope Benedict in the Vatican’s’ hierarchy. When asked by Italian media why damage control had failed so miserably, he said the Vatican’s latest headaches were the Devil’s attempt to undermine the holy order.

No wonder the Cardinal  is annoyed: The Devil has leaked sensitive documents and broken secrecy surrounding the Vatican’s banking system. Bertone said in an interview that the image of the Vatican as a place of intrigue and power struggles was misleading, but then somersaulted 180 degrees by commenting, “The truth is that there is an attempt to sow division that comes from the Devil.”

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Vatican PR. (And presumably ”A”–Gold Star!–for the Devil and his PR). If trying to portray events as storms in a teacup, then invoking the Devil is bound to confuse.

The PR Takeaway: It’s not possible to have it both ways in PR. If current scandals are blamed on the Devil, then claiming that there is nothing to worry about sounds odd indeed. Stand the Devil down, Vatican! Otherwise, if some of the allegations are proven to be true, then the Devil might find himself hailed as a whistleblower. What then?

To read more click here.

What do you think of the Vatican’s defense that Satan is behind the Vati-Leaks? Give us your PR Verdict in Speak Your Mind, below.