It’s been quite a week for journalists to tell stories about how medical industry PR people have tried to manipulate them.
There was the minimum $100 offer.
Then the $250 offer.
And now Peggy Peck of MedPage Today writes, “The wolf in sheep’s clothing.” She posts and writes about an email she recently received:
Here is an edited (to protect the not-so-innocent, and to add emphasis where I feel warranted) copy of the email:
“I wanted to see if you were interested in an interview opportunity we have coming up about vaccines for teens and preteens.
Preteens and teens are at risk for a number of diseases including human papillomavirus (HPV), meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. While many moms may say vaccination is important for their preteens and teens, they don’t typically remember to ask about them when taking their child to the doctor’s office.
The interview would be with ____, Director of Infectious Diseases _________. The interview will be by phone and we will record and send it to you . . . _________ will be available to talk to your reader about certain diseases that can affect preteens and teens and resources where parents can get more information.”
Okay, so maybe you would say what is the problem here? Just a PR person being helpful. I would say beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Back to the email:
“Possible interview questions:
* What diseases can affect preteens and teens?
* What did the survey reveal about American moms’ awareness of these diseases?
* Where can moms go to learn more?”
Giving a reporter suggested questions?
And now, the coup de grace:
News Broadcast Network
Interview provided by Merck”
Does anyone think this is journalism?
In the interest of disclosure, let me say that I’m not averse to receiving emails from agencies, nor am I averse to receiving press releases, heads-up announcements about media availabilities, and — at times — help in contacting researchers.
But at MedPage Today we draw the line at having PR people anonymously monitor interviews. Our rule is simple: we prefer to do the interview without a PR handler present, but if one is present in person or on the phone, we include that information in our articles.
And under no circumstances do we let PR people tell us what to ask.
Nope, nada, non, nien, nyet.
Thanks, Peggy. If anyone else has any other PR tales to share, we’re listening – and sharing.