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When Spin meets Sensationalism

March 30, 2011

The good folks at Business Insider seem to have become arbitrator between General Electric and The New York Times trying to get to the somewhat mythical ‘truth’. Fortunately for us, they’ve gone above and beyond to try and extract the real story, ultimately concluding that both sides are full of crap.

This series of exchanges is an excellent example of a variety of do’s and don’ts with both PR and journalism.

In the red corner we have GE’s PR machine who valiantly tried to explain how it’s correct to say both “GE did not pay any federal taxes because it didn’t owe any” and “GE paid federal taxes”. In the blue corner we have NYT explaining that its assertion that “Its American tax bill? None.” is also correct despite GE clearly paying US taxes such as payroll, state and local  taxes.

From a PR perspective, it’s fascinating tale of how not to use Twitter for PR damage control, why it’s important to take care with the technicalities when trying to spin your company’s position and how it’s necessary to have a clear and complete strategy when trying to debunk negative press.

From a media perspective, it’s just as interesting that even an organisation as well respected as the NYT, who “believe in verification rather than assertion”, can sometimes be seduced by sensationalism and the ramifications that can flow from this temptation.

It is well worth reading Business Insider’s article and following all of the links to get the complete picture of why they are both ‘full of crap’.

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