I’m pretty open about the fact that I view my success as a blogger mostly in terms of how well I influence the mainstream media. My goal is to inform, inspire, cajole, even manipulate my friends in the press corps. Nothing wrong with that. That’s what PR is all about.
But one thing I never do is lie or trick journalists into reporting something I know to be false. That would not only be rude and inconsiderate, it would destroy my credibility. “Traditional journalists” are suspicious of us bloggers, and rightly so; the first time I dupe a reporter into making a fool out of himself, is the last time that reporter will ever take me seriously.
For a good example of the Fool Me Once Doctrine in action, just witness our friends at (un)Sound Politics and their declining impact on political coverage. But I wonder if the same harsh standard by which reporters and editorialists judge us bloggers will also be applied to other prominent media manipulators, like say… a certain gay-bashing, Redmond reverend?
On Monday, Rev. Ken “The Jews Killed Christ” Hutcherson celebrated MLK Day by announcing plans to use an appearance today on Dr. James Dobson’s nationally syndicated radio show, Focus on the Family, to call for a boycott of Microsoft, Boeing and other companies that oppose discrimination of gays and lesbians. Despite the inherent absurdity of a consumer boycott of commercial aircraft and Microsoft Windows, Rev. Hutcherson managed to generate an Associated Press headline out of his carefully staged bit of grandstanding.
Well, The Stranger’s Eli Sanders was curious to see how our local Rev. Hutcherson might take advantage of his moment on the national stage, and so he tuned in today and listened. And listened. And listened. And listened… but no Rev. Hutcherson. So he called Focus on the Family’s headquarters, and you know what? Rev. Hutcherson was never scheduled to appear on the national program.
So… Sanders asks the question the AP and the dozens of newspapers who carried the original story should now be asking of themselves:
Does this “national boycott” actually exist? Or did Rev. Hutcherson trick the press into splashing his name nationally when he knew even his buddy Dobson wasn’t going to?
Rev. Hutcherson now claims he never said he was going to announce a boycott today, and I suppose that AP reporter Rachel La Corte could have gotten it wrong. But if she didn’t, my question for her and the rest of the press corps is: “Are you ever going to trust Rev. Hutcherson again?”
Prefixing one’s name with “Reverend” or “Rabbi” or some other title of ordination should not amount to instant credibility. If La Corte had been a tad less trusting she might have called Focus on the Family herself to follow up on Rev. Hutcherson’s claims… and in so doing, either would have corrected a misunderstanding, or stumbled upon an even larger story… that of a self-righteous, moralizing local minister who blatantly lies to reporters.