Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog I understand is one of the most widely-read email newsletters for the communications and PR industry. But, I must tell you I am thoroughly disgusted by their story today on BP.
It’s not the content of today’s story that I object to so much. I have objected to their treatment before, not just of BP, but Toyota, Goldman and almost any other major organization caught in a media maelstrom. It is the graphic accompanying the story. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and guess that they got this off somebody else’s website–someone who clearly wants to put the company in the worst possible light. For those of you who may not know where the image comes from, it is one of the most searing, emotionally charged and disturbing images from an earlier time. In the late stages of the Vietnam war when support for the war and for our South Vietnamese ally was slowly dissolving, one of the major news magazines ran this image of a South Vietnamese general summarily executing an accused VietCong on the street. The photographer snapped the photo just as the bullet hit the man’s head, contorting his face.
If you have not seen this, I’m sorry to introduce it to you and would not if I wasn’t so outraged and disgusted by Daily Dog’s use of it. Few images I have seen have had such a profound effect, not just on me but possibly on history. It brought home the daily personal tragedies of young lives caught short and the brutality of an apparently almost effortless killing.
Apparently the editor of Daily Dog wants to communicate the message that he considers this latest effort by BP to help improve their shattered reputation to be an act of suicide. At least some homicide. Or, is he suggesting that BP is the general and is killing people? I am hoping that he/she is just young and ignorant and had no idea the associations of that powerful image on a whole generation of Americans.
I have met Jim Sinkinson, the president or owner of Bulldog Reporter, and talked with him about my concerns about the editorial management of Daily Dog. I was disgusted before when I saw how they consistently took media attacks (such as on Toyota,) then upped the outrage a good two or three notches. I commented to Mr. Sinkinson how a reputable public relations publication like this one should understand that the media’s job is to create that public outrage and what is of more interest to the PR practioners who read this is how to manage a reputation when under this kind of often unfair attack. My defense of Toyota, I should mention, was well before NASA vindicated the company and revealed the media attacks for exactly what they were–unsubstantiated inflammation. I didn’t see Daily Dog’s apology for not only taking these attacks at face value, but upping the ante on them. (Refer to previous Daily Dog stories on Toyota if you don’t believe me.)
In addition to a most distasteful and inappropriate use of a graphic, the article makes additional mistakes. It says, without reference, that the BP spill was the world’s worst eco-disaster. I don’t think so. For some reason, in part by looking at past reporting by Daily Dog, I don’t get the feeling that the writer or editor is terribly supportive of BP’s efforts to improve their reputation. It would be more helpful for a leading PR industry publication to give a little more substantive criticism on an issue of vital importance to us practitioners.
At this point in a rant like this, most would conclude by saying, “I’m cancelling my (free) subscription and never reading that rag again.” I’m tempted, but the truth is that once in a while their articles direct me to issues and topics of value. I’m hoping instead that others who may be as offended as I am by their treatment of topics like this will help encourage Mr. Sinkinson to take this issue seriously and have a little chat with his editorial staff.