Wednesday, March 08, 2006

An Inside View of the Wal-Mart/Blogger PR Campaign

It was a story first broken right here, and then the subject of an “exposé” in yesterday’s New York Times: the fact Wal-Mart PR person Marshall Manson was cultivating sympathetic bloggers and feeding them tips and leads for stories.

Now one blogger (Say Anything) has put a compilation of all the e-mails he got from Manson online.

Manson told us this past weekend that he had written nothing to us that he would be unhappy to have on the front page of the New York Times. So blogger Rob Port is not betraying any confidences.

What Port’s e-mails show is essentially identical to what ours show. Port had a history of running pro-Wal-Mart stories when Manson sent an unsolicited message.

Port did as we did, responding to Manson’s offer of e-mailed information with “Absolutely. I probably won’t post everything you send me (I tend to hold off unless I have something substantive to say on the subject), but I am definitely interested in being kept in the loop.”

The e-mails show Manson sucking up a bit to Port, congratulating him on favorable stories on Wal-Mart. He also offers story leads and tips, and of course the (unpaid) trip to Bentonville, Arkansas to see the Wal-Mart headquarters.

For Michael Barbaro at the Times, this somehow seems sinister. Viewing it that way, however, requires that one start with the assumption that anything Wal-Mart might do is sinister.

And it helps to dislike bloggers.

Barbaro’s spin, in other words, is the one that reflects the newsroom culture at the New York Times.


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