The full extent of Wall Street's corruption doesn't stop at Enron and Arthur Andersen. Extraordinary revelations about Merrill Lynch surfaced this week when Eliot Spitzer, the New York state attorney general, publicized e-mail messages that circulated among Merrill's stock analysts, suggesting that the analysts privately doubted the stocks they publicly recommended to clients.
Arctic Power, a lobbying organization that promotes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, has ended its $4-million account with Qorvis Communication reports PR trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily. Arctic Power says there is a conflict of interest since Qorvis also is working for Saudi Arabia. One of Arctic Power's key arguments for opening ANWR to oil drilling is that it would reduce US dependence on foreign oil, particularly Middle-Eastern oil. The US is Saudi Arabia's second top export market.
Leonard Downie Jr., and Robert Kaiser, two top editors at the Washington Post, have written a new book detailing the corrupting influence of corporate ownership on mainstream news. Titled The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril, their book details how the push for profits during the past quarter century has substituted entertainment for analysis, undermined investigative journalism (too expensive), given us ever-more stories about actors, sports figures, and celebrities, and blurred the lines between news and advertising.
The email correspondence of Los Angeles' Roman Catholic cardinal as he struggled to contain a scandal over child-molesting priests was broadcast across the city after copies of his correspondence was leaked to radio station KFI-AM's popular talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou.
Recent months have seen ferocious criticisms of Enron, but Columbia Journalism Review contributor Scott Sherman thinks journalists should have asked tough questions much earlier. During the 1990s, he notes, business coverage "crackled with enthusiasm about Enron," with Fortune comparing the now-failed energy company to a "gate-crashing Elvis" in the "staid world of regulated utilities and energy companies ...
The media's use of spokespeople as primary news sources has increased 81% between 1995 and 2000 according to a study by Bob Williams, an ethics fellow at the Poynter Institute. "As a reporter, you look around the newsroom, and the tendency has become to talk to spokespeople rather than to even try to get to the principals," Williams told PR Week. Council of PR Firms president Kathy Cripps suggests reporters and editors sit down with their PR contacts for interviews as a way to improve the relationship between the media and PR practitioners.
A flashy publicity stunt outside a Houston federal courthouse accompanied accounting firm Arthur Andersen's not guilty plea to Justice Department obstruction charges. "As Andersen pleaded not guilty inside the courtroom, outside the firm launched a public relations blitz designed to portray government prosecutors as overzealous and heartless to the plight of its 28,000 U.S. employees," USA Today's Greg Farrell reports.
"The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative has filed a seven-page complaint on March 18 with the State Ethics Commission about the hardball lobbying tactics employed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and its grassroots firm, Bonner & Assocs.," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "The non-profit group is an advocate of universal healthcare and a backer of a Maryland bill that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for Medicaid patients and the uninsured. PhRMA opposes the bill.
In the wake of the Enron meltdown, Business 2.0 magazine is running several articles offering "free advice for the suddenly non-credible," in which PR gurus offer their recommendations for helping clients who have been caught lying, cheating or committing atrocities. Perhaps the most interesting comments appear in the reader response section, which invites people to comment on the financial status and standards of their own companies. Most of the responses suggest that Enron is not an isolated case.