Positive public relations for media owners and editors to disagree in public more often
Written by Jim Walsh
It is not unusual for some media outlets to publish contrary views on a topic from different columnists or reporters. It is however rare for the owners or senior editors to engage publicly in a debate about editorial decisions.
In the current issue of The Phoenix magazine, the managing editor who founded the magazine over 30 years ago, and the editor both contribute articles, which set out their differing views on the cover of the previous edition.
For anyone reading this outside Ireland, The Phoenix is a fortnightly publication that brands itself as ‘the magazine with the inside stories.’ It is modeled on the UK magazine Private Eye.
Its covers generally poke mild fun at people in public life. However the cover in question was a photograph of the Prime Minister of Israel along with the tag line ‘Gaza Blitz’ and speech bubbles referencing white phosphorous and gas.
In the current edition the magazine devotes two pages of readers comments, most of which disagree with the cover. Managing editor John Mulcahy writes explaining why he took the decision to publish. Editor Paddy Prendiville, who was on holidays at the time, explains why he would not have published the cover had he been in situ.
When senior editors in any media outlet disagree in public they provide a great service to their readers or audience. It gives a sense of the tensions that come with the daily routine in a media environment. It could be also described as positive public relations.
Most readers, listeners or viewers pay little attention to how their favoured publication and radio or television programme determines what they read, listen to or watch. They simply react to what is presented to them and I suspect rarely think of the process or discussion that may have led to a particular story appearing, or indeed the way that story is presented.
Yes facts are sacred but the ways facts are presented or omitted reflect a particular opinion or bias.
It would be a welcome development if those who control the information we receive were to allow their audiences a glimpse of the different internal views, which shape editorial decisions. To have such debates would I believe attract readers, listeners and viewers.
The decision to publishing opposing articles by the managing editor and editor of The Phoenix was a brave decision. It is also an acknowledgement that its readers deserve a glimpse behind the scenes from time to time. It is a stance that other media outlets might seek to emulate a brave decision. It is also an acknowledgement that its readers deserve a glimpse behind the scenes from time to time. It is a stance that other media outlets might seek to emulate.