Does anyone really think Brian will keep his hands off editorial?
Freedom of the press is guaranteed -- fer shure -- to them what buys ink by the barrel. His clients must be dancing.
I refer blog readers to my posting about Brian a year ago. This is a guy whose idea of media relations is to trash publicly some of the finest reporters the Inquirer has to offer over the years because they wrote stories his clients didn't like.
Editor & Publisher pointed this out in Mark Fitzgerald's article in March, describing Brian's work on behalf of the Catholic Archdiocese.
What will he say to reporters investigating wrongdoing now, "nothing personal, just business?"
I've always told my clients and employers that public relations is not about manipulating the news, but engaging journalists in a dialogue about your business.
They are not always going to agree with your point of view, and if you have something negative going on, I can't stop them from writing about it -- and it would be a mistake to try.
What I can do as a responsible communications counselor, is to confront the questions candidly and if it's something the client can fix, fix it.
Most of us in PR don't blame the messenger -- but that's Brian's very contrary M.O., and it has made him a wealthy man, so should we argue with success?
Yeah, I think so.
At least one reporter I know said a business person told the reporter they were thinking about hiring Brian to be their PR counsel, and asked if the reporter would take Brian's calls. The response was "Yes, but I won't believe anything he says."
Is that the kind of reputation you and your business want in your dealings with the media?
The only bright light in all this is that both newspapers are staffed by journalists of great integrity and professionalism. I seriously doubt that Amanda Bennett and her editorial team will stand idly by and let Brian interfere in the newsroom. But money does talk and one has to wonder how long it will be before he gives in to the temptation to try. I worked for a newspaper where advertiser pressure over negative stories was felt by reporters.
The other thing that bothers me is wrapping himself in this "civic-mindedness" that he's somehow saving the community by buying the papers. Brian is saving Brian. He sold his firm twice, and landed at Advanta for a painfully short time, exiting with yet a few more millions (he's a good negotiator for his side of the contract!) and now needs something to do...
Also, people have short memories while they celebrate his "local focus." Brian's first official act when he opened his PR firm in 1984 was to take on Norfolk Southern as his client when that railroad was hand-picked by then-Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole to buy federally owned Conrail...and help them in their unsuccessful effort to ship 6,000 management jobs at the second-largest employer in the Delaware Valley out of Philadelphia.
If you don't think that would have been the outcome in 1984, flash forward to when John Snow (current Treasury Secretary, then CEO of CSX Corporation) sold out Conrail Chairman Dave Levan and made a side deal with NS to carve up Conrail. They carved it to the bone (the survivors call the switching railroad remnant of Conrail "rump Conrail,") and shut down all but a few management jobs here.
I guess we have to give Brian the benefit of the doubt until he behaves otherwise, but keep your eyes on the news columns of the Inky. If they suddenly stop referring to the present Democrat governor by name, we'll know Brian is channelling Walter Annenberg.