Category Archives: bloggers

Yes There Is Such A Thing As Bad PR

Sadly, scenarios like this happen a lot more often than anyone would like to admit:

Several bloggers were invited to an exclusive event: A multi-course dining experience at a pop-up restaurant in New York City, with food and spirits ostensibly prepared by George Duran, of Food Network and TLC fame. The bloggers were promised access to Phil Lempert, the “Supermarket Guru.” All was going well until the diners learned the main course and the dessert they were served (meat and cheese lasagna, followed by something called, “Razzleberry Pie”) were not Duran’s creations, but instead were the work of Marie Callender’s, a line of frozen foods produced by ConAgra.

As news of the failed stunt came to light, food bloggers discussed how they cultivate trust among their readers and protect their own independence while fighting off an onslaught of PR pitches that would have them pimping products and places full-time.


Some of the bloggers in attendance shrugged off the stunt, but others were outraged, particularly because they had been asked to promote Sotto Terrra (the pop-up restaurant) in advance. These bloggers were given two tickets to award to one “lucky” reader, who would then take a guest to an evening at Sotto Terra. The upset bloggers felt tricked by ConAgra, a company largely reviled by many food writers and food enthusiasts in general.

Suzanne M. Chan, author of the blog, Mom Confessionals, was one of the bloggers who not only attended the Sotto Terra event, but also promoted it on her blog, awarding tickets to one of her readers. Much of her frustration with the bait-and-switch publicity stunt ConAgra pulled at her expense stemmed from feeling that she had unwittingly violated her readers’ trust. “My readers are loyal because they trust me,” Chan said told me. “If at any time they feel I have become unauthentic, I will have lost a reader if not many.”

I read about the failed ConAgra stunt in the New York Times last week. According to the Times, hidden cameras recorded these dinners — it went on for four nights before ConAgra pulled the plug because they weren’t getting the response they wanted. I guess they hoped to run ads with notable food writers talking about this “yummy” food, and a subsequent “shocked” and “surprised” response when they find out the food is frozen crap from ConAgra. We’ve all seen those ads before, haven’t we?

The gist of the Times article was how the campaign, orchestrated by Ketchum Public Relations, backfired. But I was surprised to read this quote in the piece:

In an e-mail message, Ms. Silverman added, “Ketchum has an excellent reputation for high ethical standards,” but “the social media realm (including bloggers) is new territory for public relations practitioners, and I view this as a valuable learning opportunity.”

Umm, no they don’t! Remember “Karen Ryan reporting”? Remember the Armstrong Williams scandal? Ketchum is a repeat offender when it comes to fooling the public; it’s their business, they’re a public relations firm, and if they’ve repeatedly crossed the line into propaganda, well who cares as long as the product got the desired publicity? That’s the difference between PR and journalism: one is shameless hucksterism, one is reporting facts.

Sadly, the last few decades have seen a blending of the two. What used to be news is now propaganda. It seems every news story is a sales pitch from some corporate or political interest. It’s getting harder to tell the difference between news stories and advertising messages.

This piece from May gave me the sads. It’s long, but give it a read. It tracks how PR firms have infiltrated newsrooms and, yes, the blogosphere. In particular, this:

The Pew Center took a look at the impact of these changes last year in a study of the Baltimore news market. The report, “How News Happens,” found that while new online outlets had increased the demand for news, the number of original stories spread out among those outlets had declined. In one example, Pew found that area newspapers wrote one-third the number of stories about state budget cuts as they did the last time the state made similar cuts in 1991. In 2009, Pew said, The Baltimore Sun produced 32 percent fewer stories than it did in 1999.

Moreover, even original reporting often bore the fingerprints of government and private public relations. Mark Jurkowitz, associate director the Pew Center, said the Baltimore report concentrated on six major story lines: state budget cuts, shootings of police officers, the University of Maryland’s efforts to develop a vaccine, the auction of the Senator Theater, the installation of listening devices on public busses, and developments in juvenile justice. It found that 63 percent of the news about those subjects was generated by the government, 23 percent came from interest groups or public relations, and 14 percent started with reporters.

Trust isn’t just the domain of bloggers. It used to be the stock and trade of the news media. Remember “the Most Trusted Name In News”? Does anyone buy that bullshit anymore? I don’t. Like most Americans, I’ve lost any faith and trust I had in the Fourth Estate. Too many plagiarism scandals, manipulations by special interests; too many inaccuracies and outright stenography. We’ve all got a jaundiced eye now.

PR firms and ad agencies are getting too clever by half. Did you hear about Toyota’s creepy 2009 “Your Other You” campaign? What the hell was Saatchi & Saatchi thinking?

It seems as if newsrooms are in a death spiral: advertisers and PR agencies have resorted to clever “stealth” campaigns because no one is reading newspapers anymore, but no one is reading the papers because they don’t trust what they read.

Where all of this leaves us I have no clue.


Filed under advertising, bloggers, corporations, Media, media manipulation

>ACK I Hardly Knew Ye

>Actually, I never even met Adam Kleinheider but, damn, this really sucks.

ACK and I were on opposite sides of the political spectrum on most issues, but I think he did one helluva job over at Post Politics. Sure, there were the occasional posts that got my goat, but they were rare. The thing I appreciated the most about ACK’s work at Post Politics, aside from all the great links, is that most of the time he was fair.

I read Post Politics all through the day. It was–is–was–my “one stop shop” for Tennessee political news. Losing a job in this economy and in this discipline sucks big time. So ACK, I hope you land on your feet.

And my heart also goes out to the other SouthComm employees, faceless and nameless to the local blogosphere at this point, who also got sacked. I don’t know who you are but I feel your pain.

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Filed under bloggers, Nashville

>How Many More Civil Wars Must We Endure?

>I find it absolutely hilarious to learn that I’ve been “pretending” to be a liberal all these years.

It also appears the Great Orange Satan has revoked my Liberal credentials and the checks from George Soros will no longer arrive in the mail.

Oh, drat.

You know, it’s really funny that someone named “Big Tent Democrat” has now decided that Jim Cooper and a handful of local bloggers aren’t liberal enough for the Democratic Party. The irony of it all.

It’s also funny that suddenly, in certain progressive circles, none of us want to see Cooper primaried and we all think he’s “just peachy.”

Actually, if anyone bothered to read the local blogs they so happily diss, they’d know that Aunt B, GoldnI and yours truly have all said we agree that primaries exist for a reason. Specifically, I said on Friday:

But fine, let’s primary Cooper, that’s how our system works. I have no problem with that at all. Let’s find our dream candidate, send him or her out there, and see if their message resonates with the constituents. Especially constituents in Belle Meade, Cheatham County, Wilson County. Places like that. Good luck.

So, to TalkLeft’s Big Tent Democrat who said

What are these “local experts” afraid of?

let me say: absolutely nothing. And if you’d read my blog you’d know that.

I also don’t know anyone who thinks Cooper is “just peachy.” Frankly I know few people anywhere who think their House representative is “just peachy.” We’ve all been critical of Cooper on our blogs. Again, you might know that if you’d bother to get to know the community before unleashing the attack dogs.

And therein lies the problem.

I really think a lot of the internet drama part of this saga has less to do with Jim Cooper and bloggers’ liberal-progressive bonafides and more to do with tone, tactics and cultural differences. I think what really set Kos and the rest off is being labeled “interlopers.” Well, sorry, but that’s how it feels. An out of state PAC has targeted our district for regime change and as soon as we voice some valid concerns we’re embroiled in a flame war? Maybe if I’d known you were coming I’d have had the chocolates and roses handy.

Seriously, let me tell you a little something about Tennessee: we don’t like being treated like a bunch of hicks from the sticks who don’t know what’s good for us. A friend who is a Nashville native observed of this whole Cooper mess:

Haven’t these people learned by now that you don’t FORCE Southerners to do anything?? How many more civil wars must we endure?! 🙂

Here’s another thing about Tennessee: I’ve lived here for 23 years and I still hear, “Y’all aren’t from around here are you?”

That’s just how it is and maybe if anyone had bothered to do a little more groundwork than just a few telephone surveys you could have avoided some of this negativity and resentment. You know, taken a more “grassroots” vs “scorched earth” approach.

Look, you aren’t engendering any goodwill by dividing the community. I sure as hell don’t like it when the hall monitor for the progressive movement suddenly decides I need a note from home before I can express an opinion about who represents me in Washington. So Kos needs to stuff it because if your grand plan fails you get to go back to Berkeley and your ex-Black Panther House Rep and two Democratic Senators. I will be stuck here with my two Republican Senators, a Republican state legislature, and (worst case) a Republican congress critter. We’ve seen how the state has gone the past few years and it hasn’t been leftward.

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Filed under bloggers, liberals, Rep. Jim Cooper

>Those Wacky Kids & Their Ethernets

>Bows in bars? The “Archery Foundation” demands 
equal rights:

The Archery Foundation is pleased to announce that next January Rep. Stacey Campfield (R‐Knoxville) and Rep. Brian Kelsey (R‐Germantown) will sponsor landmark legislation to allow law abiding archers the right to carry their bows and arrows into Tennessee’s fine eating establishments.

The “Bows in Bars” bill will ensure that all of Tennessee’s law‐abiding citizens are provided equality of protection throughout the state. Like current concealed handgun permit holders, Archers will be able to apply for a “carry” permit, though due to the size of most compound bows and arrows, it’s not practical to “conceal” them.

“The Archery Foundation is pleased with the leadership shown by these fine legislators and looks forward to working with them in the future to ensure the rights of law abiding archers”, said Johnathan Comlatly, Executive Director of The Archery Foundation of

LOL. There’s a disclaimer at the bottom of the faux press release–I admit I missed it the first time, though it’s obvious this is a hoax.

Meanwhile, local folks on Twitter have been amused by the Tweets of someone named FakeTNGOP, who is mostly still pining for ex-TNGOP Communications Director Bill Hobbs.

Comedy gold.

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Filed under bloggers

>It’s Just The Free Hand Of The Market

>Goodbye, Pajamas Media, hello angry, out of work bloggers:

We free marketers aren’t complaining that the business model failed. We’re upset (well, I am, at least) that the outfit was run into the ground by those who, to this day, can’t even articulate what it is they hope PJM to become, and who wasted the talents of a lot of popular average Joes in order to pay marquee names to post choppy versions of already syndicated columns — all in a complete 180 from what we were told PJM was about when we signed on.

ZOMG, the “popular average Joes” have a beef with management? Hilarious! Hey, maybe you guys should form a union.

Not only have you been bitch-slapped by the free hand of the market, you’ve been screwed by a conservative elite who only give a crap about “popular average Joes” when they can be trotted out as stage props to bolster the GOPs phony-baloney populist message. You’ve been had, and the sad part is, you don’t even know it.

Paging Joe The Plumber! Hey, is he back from Gaza yet?

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Filed under bloggers, media

>A New White House

>… and a new website, which now includes a blog.

Check it out, they want to hear from you.

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Filed under bloggers, President Barack Obama, White House correspondents

>Who Is Amy Broadhurst?

>She’s the one leading Big Coal’s blogger brigade:

You can get into the debate. If you are interested in becoming an active member of ABEC’s Blogger Brigade just send me an e-mail to and let me know you’re interested. One of our team members will give you a call and walk you through the process. It’s really easy – and for those of you who don’t already Blog, it is fun! You can join the online debate that’s already going on and you and others can remain anonymous (if you want to) at the same time! We’ll even set up a little competition to see how many Blog entries each person can make.

Oooh sign me up!

I guess it’s not enough to spend millions of dollars a day on public relations and lobbying:

We estimate that the coal and oil industries spent an astounding $427.2 million over the first six months of 2008 to influence public opinion and public policy.

Seems like that money could have gone to a better use, like maybe figuring out a better to dispose of dirty coal ash.

Amy is driving the Big Coal propaganda machine because it’s her job, and also, as she writes:

All the visibility we’ve had this year has made the American public more receptive to clean coal. Read how our recent survey shows record levels of support for American coal.

Public support translates into regulatory success. Thanks to your help, a new clean coal plant bringing affordable electricity to consumers is going online in Arkansas.

Thank you, Amy Broadhurst! Here are some pictures that didn’t make it onto her Fickr photostream:

Blog that, beeyatch.

(h/t, Wonk Room)

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Filed under bloggers, clean coal, environment, media

>Tyson Plant Revises Holiday Plan AGAIN

>After catching flack from the Muslim-haters in outter wingnuttia for changing its holiday policy to accommodate Muslim workers, the Tyson plant in Shelbyville, TN, has changed its policy yet again.

ThinkProgress calls this a “cave” to the wackadoodles and forces of darkness. But this actually looks more like a reasonable holiday plan to me:

[M]any anti-immigrant groups and right-wing bloggers called for a boycott of Tyson, saying the contract betrayed an important American holiday and was an improper concession to Islam.

In a news release on Friday, Tyson said it had asked the union to revise the plant’s contract and restore Labor Day as a paid holiday because some Shelbyville employees had expressed concern about the contract’s provisions.

The revised contract again makes Labor Day a paid holiday but also keeps Id al-Fitr (pronounced eed-al-FIT-tr) — which marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting — as a paid holiday for those who want it.

So those who want to take off Labor Day can, and those who want to take off the Muslim holiday can. So what’s the problem?

Of course the Malkin-tents are going to claim another victory, but hey, look at it this way: we liberals can snicker at them for defending a holiday with communist/socialist origins founded by the evil labor unions.


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Filed under bloggers, Islam, Tennessee

>Embarrassed By My Fellow Tennesseans

>Not all of them, mind you. Just the ones who are venting some serious anti-Muslim spleen over the Tyson Plant in Shelbyville.

The plant’s management negotiated with the workers union to allow the largely-Muslim workforce to take off the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr instead of Labor Day. Everyone should be happy, except for the anti-Muslim wackadoodles who can’t seem to get over the fact that a) there are a lot of Muslims in Shelbyville, TN; and b) the plant’s management is actually doing something to make their Muslim workers happy instead of, I dunno, flogging them daily and forcing them to eat pork rinds.

Over the weekend Kleinheider did a round-up of some local bloggers’ opinions. Some of the saddest ones include this one from Michael Hurtt, headlined “This Is How It Starts”:

This is a frightening example of incrementalism, the process by which groups achieve partial means to an ultimate end. For those who believe that the current fight in the Middle East is religious in nature, this concession by Tyson brings us one step closer to accepting Sharia Law as the law of the land in the U.S.

First they came for Labor Day, and because I had to work at the mall on Labor Day I said nothing ….

The funniest thing is to watch “free marketers” struggle as their economic philosophy does battle with their bigotry. For example, Six Meat Buffet:

On one hand I’m torn. A private business should be able to give everyone 365 days off a year if they want. On the other hand, replacing Labor Day for a holiday to placate the most violent, intolerant, misogynistic religion on the planet may not be the greatest idea.

Why, what a shining example of tolerance you display in that comment, SMB! Thanks for making my point for me.

The fact that most of the Muslims working at the Tyson plant are refugees from a war-torn country seems entirely lost on most conservative voices. Several people have wondered how so many refugees ended up in Tennessee to begin with. You can thank the State Department and its Office of Refugee Resettlement for that.

One of the things I have always treasured about this country is that we are a safe haven, a beacon of hope, to those suffering in poverty and strife in other parts of the world. Not, apparently, in Tennessee.

This makes me very sad. And I can’t help but think what a poor image this gives the world of Tennessee. We’re already perceived as backwards, racist, uneducated and toothless hayseeds. Today, GoldnI highlights that media narrative which brought CNN to Copperhill, TN to find people who believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. She rightly points out you could find those people anywhere in this country. But a rural town in Tennessee is where CNN chose to go for its story. Gee, I wonder why.

So Tennessee gets another black eye. Our backwards image can’t be good for business–who would want to move their corporate headquarters to a state like that? And it’s something we constantly have to fight.


“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I guess I missed the “except if you’re Muslim” line in that poem.

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Filed under bloggers, Islam, Tennessee

>Our Political Discourse

>Oh woe is me. Someone let the teeming masses into the ivory tower and it’s the end of the world as we know it.

At least, that’s my take on’s interview with law professor/author Cass Sunstein, author of 2.0, the follow-up to The article is titled “The Internet is making us stupid,” which should give you an idea where Sunstein stands on the whole blogging/internet phenomenon.

In a nutshell, he thinks the “echo-chamber” aspect of political blogs is killing democracy. It’s bad for America, he says, because it further entrenches people in their political views, and makes them more extreme — be they on the right or the left.

For example:

There’s a book, “The Long Tail,” by Chris Anderson, which celebrates the “niche-ification” of the world. I like the book — I should say, I think it’s a very good book — but what’s amazing to me is the extent to which Anderson and the Internet enthusiasts really can’t even see a problem and can’t see the individual and social benefits of being exposed to stuff you didn’t choose.

Well, I’m going to challenge Sunstein’s premise here. Internet blogs do not exist in a void, they’re almost always responding to a news story or cultural phenomenon or something else from the traditional media or the outside world. Some blogs do original reporting, it’s true, but most do not. This is why I get annoyed when someone complains about my “reporting” or says I’m a lousy journalist. On Southern Beale, I am not a reporter and I’m not a journalist. I may commit the occasional act of reporting, but 90% of the time I’m just a blogger expressing an opinion; here’s the link to the story, go read it and come up with your own opinion.

I think what Sunstein is really complaining about is the partisan nature of blogs. He’s saying blogs are not objective. But who said they’re supposed to be? Traditional newspapers and journals have offered partisan editorial opinions since forever. A Rasumussen survey from this July shows conservatives overwhelmingly believe the media has a liberal bias, and liberals believe the media has a conservative bias. I really don’t think this is the fault of blogs; I think this is the fault of a lazy, profit-oriented media that keeps getting the big stories wrong, which frustrates engaged citizens on both the right and left.

All of this sounds suspiciously like traditional media complaining about a busload of riffraff who crashed their country club party, overturned the Chivari and spiked the fruit punch with a shot of Chateau Tuesday.

Sunstein is ringing the alarm bells about “self isolation breeding polarization,” and yet I really don’t think we’re all that isolated. What we do have on the internet is a lot more people representing a broad slice of America engaged in the conversation in a very public way. I guess that’s threatening to some people, but it should be embraced. “Regular” Americans have always had an opinion about these issues, we just never had a chance to throw ’em back in the face of the opinion-makers before. Well, genie’s out, folks, and it ain’t going back in that bottle.

America’s been through a tough decade. These are polarizing times, and I don’t think the internet made us this way. I think we’re being shaped by the events themselves, not the technology we have at our disposal. We had a president impeached for a blow job, an election decided by the Supreme Court, attacks on our homeland, and a foreign war sold to us on faulty evidence. Our communities are fraying and our Constitution is being redefined–some might say torn apart–as we watch. It’s laudable that the nation would want to digest these things, discuss them, hash them out, instead of blindly accepting the opinions of some self-appointed “elite.” We’re part of the conversation now; get used to it.

Viva la internet.

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Filed under bloggers, conservatives, liberals