ᔥ NZ Herald
John Drinnan raises questions over the use of PR people as commentators. I think he is a little confused in calling Matthew Hooton a journalist…he isn’t, he is a commentator…a paid mouthpiece, rent an opinion, just as I am or anyone else that is a talking head on radio or TV shows where we offer up our opinions. In that respect Drinnan misses the point, though the conflict angle is relevant.
Never mind journalists doing PR stories, what about PR doing journalism?
There’s Matthew Hooton, a founder and director of the PR consultancy Exceltium, who is also a columnist for the National Business Review, as well as being the right-wing voice of right versus left commentary on National Radio.
And there is Michelle Boag, the former National Party president who appears in commentary spots while being a partner in a high-profile PR agency.
The Nation media commentator and Listener columnist Bill Ralston is a PR man while his leftish offsider Brian Edwards is just a step short of PR, providing media training, often an adjunct to the PR consultancy.
Meanwhile, the company that makes The Nation, Front Page, also works on internal communication for the country’s biggest company, Fonterra. Special steps are taken to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
Radio New Zealand frequently turns to public relations people for its afternoon panel with Mora.
There have been no direct allegations of PR people giving quiet plugs to their clients. But isn’t it courting problems when you hire people for journalism, whose profession is to win promotion and media coverage for their clients.
Hooton insists that he always declares any conflict of interest when he is making a commentary and there is no reason to doubt him.
Over at Radio New Zealand National, the head of features, John Howson, says the potential for conflicts of interest is taken very seriously and all guests on the panel, including PR people, are required to declare any commercial relationships and, apart from the segments when panelists are asked, ” What is is on your mind?” the topics are steered by Mora and the producers.