Sunday, April 24, 2011

NPR's PR for BP

As commenters note in the Q Tips section below, on Thursday morning NPR ran a piece about BP and the oil spill which asserted that the only real problem for BP - related to last year's oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - was how it handled its public relations.

Elizabeth Shogren (featured in the graphic above) delivers NPR's public service commercial for BP. Her entire story is anchored on Glenn DaGian who is portrayed as a local Louisianan, whose roots and dedication are to the land and people of Louisiana. Shogren tells us that when meeting with people of southern Louisiana, "His accent told them he shared their roots." Late in the piece Shogren explains that though "BP's image is still in tatters, [r]etiree Glenn DaGian wants to help BP rescue it by pushing the company to do more to restore the Gulf Coast." She ends the report with this laugher: "DaGian says BP will start doing the right thing, or he'll become the company's biggest critic." That would be a change; what NPR and Shogren fail to mention is that DaGian's first loyalty is as a longtime paid liar lobbyist for BP - and it's unclear if he is still employed in that capacity or not.

Shogren's piece is chocked full of statements about how presentation, not substance was the greatest problem for BP:
  • [Shogren]"But DaGian's efforts were eclipsed by the company's PR missteps."
  • [DaGian] "It seemed like every day he [Hayward] was making a new gaff. He didn't understand the animal that is the media. He didn't understand the public's perception of a foreigner in south Louisiana."
  • [Shogren] "people familiar with BP's crisis control effort and outside experts say, early on, BP didn't have a PR strategy."
  • [Shogren] "And BP insiders say the company's social media ramp-up helped counteract earlier PR failures."
It's interesting that given the ongoing tragedy of the BP oil disaster, NPR chooses to hone in on PR. Actual news organizations like Al Jazeera and even ABC have decided that getting horribly ill and dying from BP's reckless greed are important current stories. Not NPR. In fact, you can search NPR for any recent on-air stories about sickness in the Gulf and find nothing.

Equally disgraceful is the fact that NPR does nothing in this PR puff piece to put BP's criminal and deadly safety record in perspective. It's no surprise, just days after the BP blowout occurred, DemocracyNow! was reporting on BP's horrible safety record, while the NYT soon followed suit, and shortly thereafter ABC presented a major feature on the subject. NPR never presented a significant report on BP's record, but did mention it in a July 2010 story that contrasted Exxon's far better record with BP's. BP's record was so disgusting that a magazine like Fast Company felt motivated to put it in a nifty little graphic for perspective. Amazingly, if you look at that search of NPR, you will see a piece from June 2010 noting that Tony Hayward was doing great things for safety at BP when that pesky Gulf disaster thwarted his progress:
[NPR's Jim Zarroli] "Hayward also tried to address BP's poor safety record. The company had pleaded guilty to clean-air violations following an explosion and fire that killed 15 workers in Texas. But Armstrong says the company actually got through 2009 with no major safety violations."
[Iain Armstrong] "I know this might sound crazy, but there actually is a much stronger culture towards safety. When you consider the track record in 2005 to 2008, it was a phenomenal change."
In that puff piece, all NPR reveals about Iain Armstrong is that he "is an analyst at Brewin Dolphin, an investment management firm in London." What they don't mention is that, according to this January 2010 Reuters article, "
Brewin Dolphin's top three energy holdings are Shell, which accounts for about 3 percent of its total investments, BP, which represents around 2.5 percent, and BG Group which is still only around 1 percent of its investments but growing."
The Reuters article also notes that back in Jan. 2010, Mr. Armstrong "also likes BG Group (BG.L) due to its fast upstream growth and BP (BP.L) after its recent cost-cutting programme."
If you want any truth about the energy corporations and their role in ruining the environment or pushing for war, then you'll have to look somewhere else besides NPR where war for oil is dismissed out of hand, and "Fracking" is advertised as a clean source for future energy needs. To regular readers of this blog, that will come as no surprise, but to some woefully informed liberals it might come as a bit of a shock.


gDog said...

Talk to the mustache!

Anonymous said...

I used to think the people at NPR were simply stupid and that that fully explained everything that happens at NPR.

Many of them are indded stupid, but what they cover and what they don't cover as well as HOW they cover stories like the BP oil catastrophe are no accident.

It's all carefully scripted: ie, propaganda.

It reminds me of the title of bank fraud expert and S&L scandal regulator William Black's book: The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own one.

Well, the best way to keep the public in the dark is to own a public radio network.

Black calls it "control fraud" as it applies to banks, in which the people at the top "set the tone and expectations" for those under them.

In the case of NPR, I'd call it "Control Propaganda".

Those who object to the journalistic and/or ethical practices (or lack thereof) -- ie, who don't toe the party line (eg, Ron Schiller) -- get fired or are effectively forced out (passed over for the raise, etc).

The folks who are left are people like Alicia Shepard, Steve Inskeep, Scott Simon, Don Gonyea, Michelle Norris, etc.

Once the management have effectively driven the good people away, they don't have to tell the others what to do. There is an "understanding" that if they do NOT behave in a certain way, they will not last (be passed over for a raise, etc)

larry, dfh said...

A comment over at FDL:
captjjyossarian April 24th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
The ‘recovery’ is a lie.
The media just keeps spinning tall tales.
Earlier today, I was listening to NPR morning edition. You know what they were blaming the bad economic data on? The weather. I kid you not.
Our elite are have their very own ‘let them eat PR sound bytes’ moment.

We are not alone!

gDog said...

¡viva cptjjyossarian!

gDog said...

Wow, that lobbyist link is neat.

It's 11:12 on Easter, so I get the word verification "unvatico."

Anonymous said...

The guy told Hanson he "had to be optimistic" and Nate Ehrbacher nailed them on this guy's reason for optimism. Ehrbacher (MY ombudsman!!) for NPR CEO ASAP.

MyT Words may have outdone himself with this post. He just keeps setting the bar higher. Congrats.

And the rest of us? Far left but really right!


Patrick Lynch said...

The BP story was another example of how NPR doesn't even bother to hide what it is doing anymore. Mytwords critique of that blatant propaganda was one of the best I've read to date. Well said!

Anonymous said...

Just a couple months ago, NPR was lukewarm at best to the publishing of classified documents by wikileaks, focussed far more on Assange's alleged sexual indIscretions than on the contents of the leaks -- and posing the question of whether Assange even qualifies as a "journalist."

That was then...

This is now: NPR is itself reporting information from classified Wikileaks-released documents, which the NY Times has "shared with NPR" (as if NPR is somehow a member of some elite club!)

Of course, NPR's slant to their report on this information is entirely predictable: most of the people at Guantanamo are al Qaida operatives, with only passing mention of the innocent people caught up in the system.

But it is nonetheless humorous that people like Dina Temple-Raston and Tom Gjelten are now publishing classified material.

Perhaps when Assange is "brought to justice" in the US and "tried" and given a life (or death) sentence, the folks at NPR will be standing there beside him.

After all, as anyone who reads this blog knows, Temple-Raston and Gjelten are not "real" journalists and hence should not be shielded from prosecution.

Real journalists don't engage in propagandizing...

... as with the title to NPR's article: "Military Documents Detail Life At Guantanamo" (Kinda like life on Golden Pond)

...and below that, the inspiring picture of the camp entrance with a sign reading "Value of the week: INTEGRITY".

Anonymous said...

off topic but only fractionally:



Bravo MTW!


Wow, that really is stunningly awful.

NPR celebrates the anniversary of one the worse environmental disasters in US history, buy throwing a pity party for BP?

NPR is more concerned about how BP hurt itself with poor PR than it is about how BP hurt thousands of family on the Gulf, the wildlife on the coast, the eco system of the coast.

Nice priorities.

I thing evolutionarily biologist call NPR's behavior "signaling."

NPR is signaling to potential corporate donors that they can expect to be treated with kid gloves for their misdeeds, criminal conduct, and environmental degradation (See: Ally Bank, Pharma, the Natural Gas Industry, etc.).

FYI, also thanks for the lobbyist link.

gDog said...

Wow...Amy Dickinson, Mary Matalin...aficionados of Rush and Glenn Beck...bemoaning the liberal bias on NPR. Talk about the Overton window listing full bore to the insane. I will never listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me the same way again.

Meanwhile, NPR is listing further and further to the inane. Yesterday they had a segment about whether you can get Chinese food in China or not...a thinly disguised 10-minute advert for PF Chang's.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most amazing thing of all about the NPR PR piece is that there is nothing new in it.

NP is pretending to "inform" us (in their infinite wisdom) what any idiot on the street recognizes: if you want people to believe an respect you, you can't relate to them in a callous, condescending way -- ie, in the way BP execs did, calling gulf residents "small people", "I want my life back" etc.

The absolutely hilarious thing is that NPR is advising against handling PR the way Tony Hayward did when that is precisely how NPR handles their own relations with the public!

Just look at the whole Ron Schiller affair, for God's sake.

Anonymous said...

Shogren is a pathetic twit, but she ain't the only one at NPR who is.


This article on the recent gas price increase is utterly stupid.

It does not even acknowledge the role of speculation in the recent gas price hike (over 10% in a single month)

Even Goldman Sachs acknowledges that such speculation has played a significant role.

It's interesting that whenever the folks at NPR do not want to attach their name to an article they say it is "by NPR Staff".

I don't blame them. That article on gas prices is a piece of crap that only a moron could have written.

gDog said...

In related news, there's a struggle going on at Pacifica. Indybay is reporting that Pacifica exec Arlene Engelhart has struck a deal with Merrill Lynch to accept underwriting for reporting on fracking. On Pacifica Evening News today it was reported (at about 50minutes in) that it was not Merrill Lynch, but Goldman Sachs (phew, what a relief!) that had given money and that it was a "no strings attached" grant, not underwriting...but that it was for reporting on fracking? Anyway, you can see there is some serious pressure that comes to bear on even Pacifica around these issues.

JayV said...

A nice, cogent piece. I have been sharing it with friends who get most of their news from NPR, and your report has indeed been an eye opener for them. They never thought that they would have to second-guess NPR news!