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
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.