Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue
We counsel clients all the time that reporters are changing: gone are the days of balanced reportage and in-depth analysis of the issues facing our society. That’s been replaced at all turns by hyperbole, editorializing and infotainment. If you want an example, look no further than the L.A. Times coverage of the stranded cruise ship off the Pacific Coast.
In a November 10 article, L.A. Times reporters Maria L. La Ganga and Tony Perry break out their crisis thesaurus to ratchet up the drama of this floating PR nightmare for Carnival Cruises. The cruise industry hasn’t been raked over coals this hot since the “Poseidon Adventure”. As if they’re channeling the folks who wrote the screenplay for “Titanic,” La Ganga and Perry set out to spin a “cautionary tale about just how vulnerable these mega-ships can be.” They use this single incident of a fire on the Carnival Splendor that knocked out power to the ship as a brush to paint every large vessel as a disaster waiting to happen.
They parrot Carnival’s CEO assuming that the passengers must be “very uncomfortable.” They wail about the ship’s gourmet cuisine being replaced by bread and canned milk. Worst of all, they speculate that this episode could be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. They quote the president of International Cruise Victims bemoaning “significant risks as these ships get bigger and bigger.” Call me old fashioned, but I get the sense that someone who works for International Cruise Victims is not exactly an objective expert when it comes to ship safety.
And what actual evidence do La Ganga and Perry present that cruising could be getting more risky? A website called cruisebruise.com that reports “eight major fires on cruise ships in the last five years, compared with just three in the previous seven years.” Cruisebruise.com bills itself as a source for information on murder, death, rape and other seaborne terrors. But let’s put aside the credibility, or lack thereof, of a site like cruisebruise.com. Did La Ganga and Perry consider even for one second that the number of fires on cruise ships could be increasing… because the number of ships is increasing? Could it be that the relative safety of cruising is actually increasing? They’ll never tell us.
On top of that, do they present any evidence whatsoever that the increase in cruise ship fires is due to shoddy engineering? Careless operation? Drunken sailors? Nope. That would actually take some reporting.
The best advice for PR professionals: Do your homework before putting your clients in front of some of today’s so-called journalists. If they smell fishy, move on. You’ll be doing your clients—and yourself—a favor. Anchors aweigh.