I Don’t Get It

by Roger Pynn

No self-respecting public relations professional would ever think it is OK to produce fake news.  It flies in the face of every ethical guideline … and, oh, by the way … it goes beyond dumb to qualify as just plain stupid.

As The Poynter Institute’s Jim Romenesko reported, a California water management district seemed to think it was just fine, leading me to wonder “who is in charge of public relations at the Central Basic Municipal Water District?”

I reached out to Valerie Howard, who is listed as the District’s media contact on its website, to ask whether the decision to use News Hawks Review, which Romenesko reported is affiliated with an outside communications firm that contracts with the District, was made internally or at the suggestion of outside counsel.

Her response:  “It’s unfortunate how quickly inaccurate news spreads. We’re drafting our request for corrections now.”

I don’t get it.   The media is increasingly irrelevant, anyway.  People don’t need fake news.  There is plenty of direct communication going on and intelligent people are making their own judgments on issues.  Why not build your own lines of communications and let influencers and opinion leaders – the people who matter to you – make up their minds?

Ours is a misunderstood business.  True professionals need to do everything they can to separate themselves from this kind of conduct and guide their organizations and clients toward meaningful, independent and transparent communication.

4 Responses to I Don’t Get It

  1. Dan says:

    As Romenesko mentioned, the purpose was to drive positive mentions of the Central Basin in Google News searches. Google has announced that the News Hawks Review has violated its guidelines and would no longer appear in Google News searches.


  2. Taking Aim says:

    […] month I wrote about a California Water Management District being called out for what most would say was a case of manufacturing news and positioning it as the […]

  3. Diane Bucka says:

    It is regrettable that an organization charged with informing its stakeholders and promoting conservation and allocation of one of our most precious resources would risk compromising its reputation in this way. There is no shortage of qualified public relations professionals (myself included!) who would gladly work to write about the very real initiatives and programs being offered by CBMWD; this over-reaching by the PR firm – and CBMWD’s complicity in it – represents a lack of due-diligence, at the very least.

  4. […] Water District of California that, under contract with its PR firm, Coghlan Consulting Group, paid to place fake stories on an online news site.  At the time, the website was indexed by Google News and included several positive stories that […]

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