Trylon Communications  - January 2006

Who’s Behind Op-Ed?

A recent New York Times article reported that opinions written and distributed via the media may in fact be PR ploys in disguise. Examples abound of “impartial third parties” receiving money to write opinion articles. So who’s behind op-ed today?

There are ethical ways to get a message out, but also ways to promote the same message in unethical and possibly even illegal manners. For example, hiring “independent” journalists (see story) to write propaganda articles is unethical.

Having lobbyists pay a non-profit director to write an article is a disaster waiting to happen – especially if that lobbyist is someone like Jack Abramoff, who has pled guilty to bribery and other assorted dirty political tricks.

The problem isn’t so much that such writers are being paid, but that they are not disclosing that information. Simple disclosure can eliminate ethics problems while still promoting ideas.

The Public Relations Society of America, an industry group that includes lobbyists, says the PR industry opposes the use of outside writers to promote a client's interests unless financial ties are fully acknowledged.

As in most ethical dilemmas, common sense prevails. For a message to resonate, it must be clear, targeted and above all, legitimate.