I’m constantly amused by the numerous examples of conflict of interest and non-disclosure. On today’s on-line section of the Advertiser here’s a series of articles relating to social media and it’s effects upon the general public and how companies can benefit from using internet tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook. Sure some of them work, but then there’s a lot of businesses that fail that have relied heavily on these social media outlets. What does work?
A dedicated PR firm. Really, that’s always been the way to go, which is why I was amused when I read the first article I nearly laughed out loud, sorry, LOL. Why? Not because of the way it was written – it was, well, competent. Not because of what it said, but more that it was written by a PR person whose firm represents some of the companies mentioned in the ad. All without disclosure of the real employment of the author of the article. It’s the kind of thing that shows like Media Watch thrive upon, and hopefully they’ll pick this one up.
I’m all for articles promoting the progression of the internet, but it’s always healthy to remember that what works for one, may not work for another. There’s always a downside, not that you’d ever think as much by reading the articles that the PR employees are pushing forward onto the Adelaide Now site. And why would they mention a downside? After all they want the business really, so it’s in their best interests to never mention failure, or risk. Only success and payment is due within thirty days thanks.
And say what you want about my own merits as a journalist, frankly I don't rate myself at all, but for some reason, others do. The fools. But there was one thing I learned in my time working in both electronic and print media, and that's to disclose everything. Absolutely everything. Why? Because you never know when it's all going to come back and bite you firmly on the arse. And it will come back to haunt you at some stage. When I worked for the ABC it was pumped into our heads from day one. They were relentless really and I can still hear the station manager telling me, "If you have even the slightest hint of conflict of interest then walk away from it. And if you have an interest and don't disclose it, then it's on your stupid head." You can't say we weren't told. Still, today disclosure and conflict of interest are just things that happen to others. And people wonder why the standards of journalism have slipped to the point where it'd embarass the likes of William Randolph Hearst and give Joseph Pulitzer cause for pause before publishing.
It's no longer, "Publish and be damned," anymore. It's more "Publish and who cares?"