Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Warren Piece: The FT, prompted by his donation of billions to the Bill Gates Foundation, comments on Warren Buffet’s “other talent”: his masterful management of his own image, attributing some of his success to his relationship with Fortune’s Carol Loomis. (Loomis edits Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders, owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway and sits on the board of the foundation named for Buffett’s late wife, but as the FT is careful to note: “She is also one of the best financial journalists in the business and has always disclosed her ties to Buffett when writing about him.”)

But there’s more to the Buffet image than that. “Buffett has never been one to surround himself with armies of highly paid public relations people, but he has masterfully maintained a positive popular image as a folksy, down-to-earth guy from Omaha. This kind of thing isn’t always easy for the ultra-wealthy to do, but Buffett has done it. A reflection of his winning personality? Perhaps. But he also seems to have a certain comfort with the press that many other CEOs (or politicians) do not.”

Leslie Gaines-Ross is fond of quoting a remark Buffet made when he took the helm at Salomon Bros., then in the middle of an ethical crisis. “If you lose dollars for the firm by bad decisions, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”

We’d all be better off if more CEO’s felt the same way.
Blustery Snow: White House press spokesman Tony Snow and his boss (and his boss’s boss) have been fiercely critical of The New York Times for its decision to publish a story about the Treasury Department’s efforts to track terror funding by trawling through private bank records. The National Review then ran an editorial calling on the White House to withdraw the Times’ press credentials.

But if Bush, Cheney and Snow are right, and The New York Time (and the L.A. Times and The Wall Street Journal, which also ran stories on the subject) really did put national security at risk, then the National Review’s proposed punishment seems modest, the least a concerned administration would do under the circumstances. So why does Snow say there will be no denial of access to the Times?

Greg Sargent, at Eat the Press, cuts to the chase: “Either officials won’t act aggressively against an institution they’re claiming puts American lives at risk, because it's politically untenable. That would mean the administration is putting politics ahead of aggressively prosecuting behavior it says endangers American lives. Or the administration doesn't genuinely believe The Times has put our national security at risk at all, and hence won't act. If this is the case, both Snow and Cheney blatantly and repeatedly lied….

“Either the administration is putting politics ahead of national security and won’t act aggressively against an institution it says is endangering American lives—because it would be bad for Bush. Or the administration’s claim that The Times endangered national security is just the latest in a long string of lies it has told to the American people. Which is it?”Greg thinks he knows the answer. So do I.

Tony Snow has not been in the job very long, but he needs to learn than in the real world—as opposed to the media cocoon that is Fox News—bluster is not a PR strategy.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Nonsense in the Name of Objectivity: Ardith Hilliard, the editor of The Morning Call, is one of those journalists who believe that the media is best served if individual reporters keep their personal preferences hidden. I've never understood that point of view, because it seems to me that greater transparency serves the public interest more than secrecy does.

Hilliard it was who suspended a reporter for serving as grand marshall of a gay pride parade with this pious nonsense: "We whose life work it is to defend the First Amendment often must forgo activities it was written to protect." Taken to its logical extreme, this presumably means The Morning Call will suspend any reporter found to be attending church. Will it? Yeah, right.