Harry McCracken's been one of our favorite technology journalists for many years — besides having a positively photographic memory, he has a capacity for putting a personal touch on his work that pulls us in with virtually everything he writes. Last week he relayed the story of being pitched a $500 gift card from one of the industry's giant PR firms in exchange for "starting a conversation" with his readers around an upcoming home theater campaign from LG. As McCracken says, "a big PR firm offering what amounted to cash payments for coverage on behalf of a major tech company" isn't something you hear every day.
Opinions are one thing (we're never afraid to show those), but for journalists like McCracken, us, and many others, impartiality is an unbreakable contract with readers; lose that, and there's virtually nothing differentiating you from an advertisement. Rather than toss the invite in the trash, he smartly reached out to execs at Ogilvy — the company responsible for the campaign — who promptly replied that the campaign was "stupid" and promised to reeducate the staff who created it. They also pointed out that the offer should've never gone to a journalist of McCracken's position as a "grizzled veteran" anyway.
It looks like Ogilvy may have learned its lesson, but needless to say, PR firms are always looking for ways to influence the media — in many ways, it's their job.
Coincidentally, you can find our ethics statement here.
Image credit: Lewis PR