In yesterday's PR Junkie we talked about the rampant fear that exists among PR and media relations practitioners in the age of social media. We noted how companies are turning down interviews with reporters even when the stories would put their organizations in a favorable light.
Then we thought of the case of Mayhill Fowler and her interview with Bill Clinton.
Fowler is the 61-year-old blogger for the Huffington Post who asked Bill Clinton a leading question about a critical story about him in Vanity Affair. In her question, Fowler characterized the article as a “hatchet job” with the obvious intention of leading the former president to believe she was an ally. He took the bait and immediately slammed Vanity Affair reporter Todd Purdum for being “slimy” and a “scumbag.”
"[He's] sleazy," Clinton said about Purdum. "He's a really dishonest reporter. And one of our guys talked to him . . . And I haven't read [the article]. But he told me there's five or six just blatant lies in there. But he's a real slimy guy.”
Little did Clinton know that those comments would appear online, adding to the long-running story about the former president's issues with anger and stoking the controversy over whether he has been a help or hindrance to his wife's campaign. The president didn't know because Fowler didn't tell him.
This isn’t the first time Mayhill has pulled this stunt. A few months ago she reported Barack Obama’s comments from a closed fundraiser.
So what do we all think of this new "citizen journalism?' Will the Mayhills of the blogging world lead to more paranoia, more turn downs for interviews? How will your clients distinguish between a private conversation and an ambush from a blogger?
If you think Mayhill is an isolated case, then think again. She’s one of 2,500 people who work with Off the Bus. The project gives every day people like Mayhill the opportunity to cover the race to the White House. Arianna Huffington says “they’re not part of the professional gaggle, they can come up with their own views of what’s happening, which may be different from what the conventional wisdom is saying.”
Will the escapades of citizen journalists affect your clients' perception of the media? Will it ever feel safe again to agree to an interview?