Thursday, February 10, 2011

How P.R. pro 'infiltrated' Tennessean's op-ed page

Alt-weekly Nashville Scene offers a cautionary tale today about the pitfalls of publishing opinion pieces written by faraway sources. The story involves The Tennessean.

"Over the past year," Nashville Scene's Matt Pulle writes, "the daily's opinion page has published at least five op-eds written by various employees of Richard Berman, a notorious PR executive who helps tip policy debates in favor of companies like Coca-Cola and Tyson Foods. Whether criticizing minimum-wage legislation or mocking the Humane Society, these op-eds usually adopt anti-regulatory positions that help Berman's business partners."

Pulle continues: "But those motives aren't readily transparent to the reader. That's because the Tennessean only prints a bare-bones disclaimer that identifies the author as part of a sober-sounding nonprofit or trade association. There's no mention that Berman himself orchestrates those nonprofits to attack his clients' critics -- a slippery tactic that has been profiled in 60 Minutes and The New York Times." (Link to NYT story.)

Earlier: How "Ellie Light" tricked dozens of newspapers, including Ohio's Chillicothe Gazette


  1. Anyone that thinks that this problem isn't more pervasive is a fool.
    This has been going on for a while, and as newsroom staffs continue to shrink, there will be more of these published.
    The Press & Sun-Bulletin is notorious in the local community for publishing shill pieces. They've been told several times in the last two years that they've been duped, and they continue to let their readers down.

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