Chutney lacks compassion, timing off for Mango

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At 1.31pm today Tina Alldis head of publicity for Mango PR managed to take the Australian media conversation in a completely unexpected direction. With a click of her mouse she managed to paint PR practitioners as ignorant, superficial and vacuous un-professionals – all giddy at the thought of redundancies about to sweep through the Australian media industry.

Less than a week after Fairfax announced it would slash 1,900 jobs, turn the iconic mastheads of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald into tabloid size papers and turn off the printing presses at Tullamarine, Tina found the positives among the debris (or so she thought).

Her opinion piece for Mumberella describes it as “an exciting time to be in PR”. A statement that has generated heated discussion from journalists and PR professionals across the country.

But should we be surprised by her comments? Given Tina described the focus of her relationship with journalists as being there to “harass daily with our brand stories and announcements”. As one reader put it: “what planet is she living on?” .

As a proud PR professional the relationships I have built within the media industry are ones that are not about “hassling” but about respect and indeed friendship.

You would think the “sometimes dancer, sometimes singer, sometimes partier, sometimes athlete” could show a little compassion for the people she works with on a daily basis.

The blogger might also like to think about the timing of opinion pieces in the future. And word to the wise, redundancies and “exciting time” should never be seen together in the same story.

Surely, like countless other communicators across Australia she realises that with fewer journalists to challenge us our profession will no doubt become unrecognisable? I don’t know many people who want to spend their days reading self-indulgent drivel about an organisation written by the organisation for the organisation?

Tina thinks clients will be over the moon. I can tell you our clients aren’t happy. They aren’t happy to see the depth and credibility of journalism in this country continually decline. And they aren’t doing cartwheels over the idea of having the same story replicated across multiple outlets without any thought for the context or tailoring to specific audiences. And I can tell you, no one will be happy when they wake up and find they’re living in a one-paper town – which is on the cards I’m sure.

It’s an extremely challenging time for journalists and as PR professionals we need to support them in any way we can. Not only have they already had to carve out a vastly different career under very challenging circumstances and no longer get to properly hone and practice their craft, many are now in a state of limbo and could potentially be jobless in the near future.

Finally, it’s confusing to think someone who manages reputations for a living would call our industry the “dark side” even if I’m assuming it was a little tongue in cheek?

In one blog, Tina has managed to reinforce a stereotype. It is my hope that the many journalists out there who have been rightly affronted by the piece, will show compassion even though Tina didn’t and think about the good PR people they’ve worked with. Ones who care about the communication industry and are committed to being professionals.

I’ll leave you with a few comments posted in response to Tina’s opinion piece:

So it’s an exciting time to be in PR because understaffed newsrooms will be more likely to lap up a shill, is it?

I work in PR but I’m struggling to see how fewer journalists benefits anyone. In my view the job cuts are a real concern for our democracy as well as the media and PR industries.

My hope is that a viable model is developed whereby quality journalism is financially viable. I believe most clients of PR companies value the quality press much more than blogs but the current trend seems to be a race towards the bottom.

Ive been in the pr/media industry for a long time and this piece has just floored me. This kind of thinking is just shallow and embarrassing. Rather than this being an ‘exciting time’ I’m devastated for my journo friends at both fairax and news and genuinely worried about what it all means for media in general. Intelligent, ethical reporting is essential in any progressive society. There are thousands of really great, smart people who will be out of a job, it’s not a win for PR, it’s a loss.

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