There is a key difference, though. The article describes the plan as “propaganda,” and rightly so. However, this CNN article dances a little around the notion that we are somehow throwing money at Iraqi reporters:
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, said the program, which pays to plant favorable stories with Iraqi journalists and newspapers, is a serious problem.
Setting aside any partisanism — this article sets a bad precedent for the modern PR practitioner. Why would firms bother keeping track of media hits if it wasn’t part of their job to effectively place stories?
One of the companies involved — the Washington-based Lincoln Group — has at least two contracts with the military to provide media and public relations services. One contract, for $6 million, was for public relations and advertising work in Iraq and involved planting favorable stories in the Iraqi media, Defense Department records show.
If we stashed cash in the hands of Iraqi reporters and editors, then shame on them and shame on us. Given the newfound freedoms after decades of being a state-run media, it frankly wouldn’t even surprise me to see the opportunism rear its ugly mug. But looking at what was written in this piece, I don’t even see this as an allegation.
Paying PR professionals to do there what they are free to do here is not a contradiction. We are long past the day of the bomber dropping leaflets — fax machines and e-mail are the smartest bombs of all.