Tanya Dodaro, Co-founder and Managing Director
Leslie Roberts, anchor at Global Television was suspended yesterday due to alleged ties with BuzzPR firm in Toronto. As an owner of On Q Communications, a PR firm in Toronto, this case brings to light what is suggested to be happening behind the scenes at several media outlets in the city and it undermines what we are all working so hard to achieve for our clients. When we call media to pitch a good story on behalf of our clients and the first question that is asked is, “Do you advertise with us?” something is not right.
Authentic public relations emerges when a company has new and exciting information that would be beneficial to share to a larger audience, where everyone can benefit. The most delicate part of this process is the authenticity. It is the foundation for what true journalism is built on and what public relations professionals base their entire businesses on. When we start to blur the lines of authenticity and tilt the scale ever so slightly by attaching some benefit to covering one story over another, we are not only giving viewers/readers biasedly chosen information, but on a larger scale we are actually undermining what our free society is built on, propaganda free news.
Having started my career in journalism, I can tell you it’s a slippery slope. Large companies treat the media very well, supplying them with the newest products, shoes, clothes, fancy dinners and weekends away. It’s dangerously easy to fall for the glitz and glamour of it all, the “just one tweet and all this will be mine” concept. The age of social media adds just one more layer making the concept of authenticity even more difficult to define, where tweeting and liking is part of our morning and evening routine. Where does it stop? If someone prominent in the media “likes” a certain product and tweets about it to their millions of followers, is that biased information? The answer is if they are receiving immediate benefit then YES! But do people believe that anymore? Will it stop them from following instructions and buying the new product because it was endorsed? Ignoring favoritism is obviously something that is impossible to avoid, it’s a concept that is inherent to life, from the friends, to the colleagues, to the foods we choose, but what is its place in journalism and where do we draw the line?
Whether or not Mr. Roberts is found guilty in this case, I think his story highlights how the world of media is ever-changing and how it is important to always keep top of mind the fundamentals on which our free society is based on. In the end, I think the onus is on each of us. We have been given 2 eyes, 2 ears and a logical thought process and it is our job to examine more closely how news is disseminated in today’s marketplace. Can we trust that the news we are receiving is real? Has one news story taken precedence over another due to immediate benefit to the decision-maker? How can media put checks in place to stop this pay-off propaganda inspired news from reaching the public? How do we define the role of social media in the current news environment?