Former MSNBC guy Dan Abrams seems to have noticed that his plan to start a PR firm made up of actively employed members of the media who will sell their consulting services to corporate clients is causing some uproar among people who believe that it would be a blatant conflict of interest for any journalist to be part of it. Which should include you, and anyone else who doesn't think members of the media should take outside pay for PR work. Abrams and his cohort in the project, former HuffPo media critic Rachel Sklar, offered long defenses of the idea to Daily Intel. Let's do some critical analysis, shall we?
Abrams: "First and foremost there are thousands and thousands of folks in 'media' around the world who are not involved in the news business."
Fair enough. You can hire people who make no claim to journalism. Though that would seem to disqualify them as experts. You can also hire ex-journalists; PR firms are full of them. But you can't hire anybody who is in some way a practicing journalist, because then they're being paid money to consult for somebody, which is a conflict of interest. This is really simple. Then Abrams asks people to look at his website. Fine. It has some examples of what the firm might do:
A Fortune 500 business believes the financial media has focused unfairly on a small change in accounting practices rather than significant increases in revenues. Abrams Research can bring together top financial journalists to advise that business on how to best convey its message.
No. That is a job for a PR firm, not "top financial journalists." That is a conflict of interest.
A video game distributor is seeking an assessment of how blogs in a particular market will react to its new product. Abrams Research can reach out to the most influential industry bloggers and present an overview of their opinions on a particular marketing message.
No. Do you think that the writers of (for example) Kotaku, our video game blog, can sell their opinion on marketing messages to video game companies? No. That is ludicrous. These are blatant conflicts of interest. Then comes Rachel Sklar with her defense:
"Journalists are on panels all the time — they are quoted in articles all the time — they sit down for coffee with friends, or friends of friends, to give advice all the time. I give advice to people all the time privately — and I seek it. I also did it publicly for over two years on Eat the Press, in the format of, 'This is why I think you're doing it wrong'...What doesn't make sense about trying to educate yourself about an area of media before pitching that area of media? No one is talking about passing a cash-stuffed envelope under the table.
Right. You're passing the cash-stuffed envelope over the table. Rachel Sklar is smart enough to understand the difference between giving "advice" as a journalist, while being paid by a media company, and giving advice to a corporate client for a fee, as a PR consultant. You can do PR or you can do journalism, but you can't do both at the same time. Abrams should just hire former media people like every other PR firm. Look, this is the New York media and everybody knows everybody and everybody thinks everybody is nice and everything, but come on. This is a ridiculous thing. [Daily Intel]