Fake news. It’s a source of entertainment for millions. Outlets like the Onion, Weekend Update on SNL, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report satisfy a satirical jones for folks looking for funny. Fake news, as the Columbia Journalism Review points out, has been around forever, from muckrakers like William Randolph Hearst, tall tales and even mythology. Tabloid headlines, from celebrity troubles to Bat Boy, are a great escape while waiting in line at the supermarket.
But when does fake news cross the line? My take is when it is packaged as real news. This is a debate that picked up a couple of years ago when it came out that the government manufactured VNRs to promote a health care agenda. And when it became known that columnists Maggie Gallagher and Armstrong Williams were on a government payroll. Same thing with a handful of El Nuevo Herald reporters who broadcast for
Even members of Congress are on the spin train. Take
While it’s easy to take shots at the government, it might be difficult to step back and take a look at the PR industry. I find it appalling, though not totally surprising, that people in our industry think it’s perfectly fine to lie if it’s going to enhance the appeal of their client.
Furthermore, says Martin Moore, out of 260 attendees “138 voted against the motion [that PR people should tell the truth] in last night’s PR Week sponsored debate that ‘PR has a duty to tell the truth‘, vs 124 for.”
I find this unbelievable. We are in this business to make our clients look good, but when such an ethical line is breached, it is unconscionable. No wonder PR is often frowned upon as an industry.
At first I thought our friends across the pond ate some bad fish and chips, but ethics codes are well documented by at least one British PR organization, CIPR. The code of conduct instructs PR people to strive for integrity and honesty.
So what’s going on here? Is this problem of being (un)truthful an issue in the
To me and my young colleagues, this is a shocking indictment of what’s wrong in PR. Lying is not the reason I got into this business. No, I did it to become a clear and creative communicator. Lies have no place in my office.
At least we can rest easy knowing that, perhaps for once, Clifford told the truth. Even if it is bullshit.