Journalism is the New Public Relations – Corporate Marketing Arm

August 6, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. – (exclusive) by Ivy Harper

The year was 1977. I was in the Capitol Hill office of my then-boss, newly elected Rep. John J. Cavanaugh, and he made a crack about a Washington Post journalist who’d just left the Cannon HOB after interviewing him.

The essence of Cavanaugh’s off-hand remark: “Journalists are little more than glorified stenographers.”

Since I’d proudly graduated two years earlier from NU’s renowned J-School and had worked for the York News-Times right out of college for a year before I joined the Omaha-based “Cavanaugh for Congress” campaign, I was taken aback. To say the least.

Plus, I’d never actually heard anyone denigrate journalists. Ever. Not once. Journalists were considered cool justice-seekers who “comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable” in the words of the great UN-L J-School Professor, Jim Patten. Crusading muckrakers. Corporate corruption whistle-blowers. Idealistic investigators necessary for an egalitarian democratic republic.

Remember, Watergate was 1972; Nixon’s resignation was 1974; and pretty much the whole country had put journalists on a pedestal. Or so I thought. Obviously, not John Cavanaugh. (In retrospect, Cavanaugh was waaaaaaaaaaay ahead of his time.)

Cavanaugh’s statement – delivered so casually – was deeply disturbing to me as I considered Journalism to be one of the finest professions around.

“Why are you saying that?” I pressed for some further explanation.

“Because it’s true,” he said. “They just scribble down whatever politicians say without really checking our comments out. Or doing any kind of follow-up down the line. I could say anything – true or not – and they’ll put it in the paper.”

He shook his red-haired, freckled-face head and moved on to his work at hand: drawing big circles in red pen all over “Constituent Letters” – written by “Legislative Assistants” – whose responses drove Cavanaugh mad but not so much that he would draft acceptable answers himself. In John’s defense, he didn’t have time what with being a brand spanking new Congressman, devoted husband, and doting father – I believe, at that point, of three kids. (Weeks later, I came in and saw piles of red-inked, rejected “Constituent Letters” under some desk or table. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I digress.)

I thought of Nebraska’s 2nd District Congressman, John Cavanuagh, – who, interestingly enough – beat Lee Terry, Sr. in 1976 – when I read a recent Joe Morton OWH story headlined, “RNC speaker Lee Terry?

Posted on July 23, 2012 by Joseph Morton

“Could Lee Terry have a speaking role at next month’s Republican National Convention?

The Omaha Republican seemed to hint at that possibility Monday following a Capitol Hill press conference to unveil his latest legislation related to the Keystone XL pipeline…

Terry said that he had a meeting scheduled for later in the day with national Republican Party officials and that Romney’s campaign might have representatives there.

He said the topic of the small group discussion would be how energy issues could be included as part of the party’s platform at its late-August convention in Tampa , Fla.

Reporters asked whether he would attend the convention himself and whether he might even land a speaking role.

“I don’t know yet – to be determined,” Terry responded. “That’s kind of what this meeting’s about.”

He was asked again by a reporter: You could have a speaking role at the convention?

Terry responded with a long shrug and an impish smile. [Ivy Harper here: okay, I’m pretty sure that if I wrote that Bob Kerrey had an ‘impish’ smile, I could not get away with it.]

Another reporter interjected: Is that what you’re asking for?

Terry laughed.

“That’s part of the discussion,” Terry said.

[Ivy Harper writing here: The first OWH Comment on this OWH “Washington Notebook”column by Joe Morton story was by Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb who – without question – takes the OWH reader far closer to “the truth” than Joe the Journalist does with his leading questions.]


Jane Fleming Kleeb · Editor and Founder at Bold Nebraska

Turns out the meeting was low-level staffer meeting and Politico called it a “bueller, bueller” moment…

Reply · · Yesterday at 8:08am

[Note: Ivy Harper writing again here]

What has happened to “real” Journalism at the OWH? Here’s a few more examples where the OWH publishes a story that – by the old NU J-School standards – is simply “not ready” to print yet.

Indisputably, one of the biggest [still] non-reported stories in all of Nebraska was the early Jan, 2012 resignation of NU Foundation head, Clarence Castner who was earning more than $700,000 (seven hundred thousand dollars a year) when he ostensibly “resigned.”

Let’s get real here, folks, those who get to that level – in charge of a billion-dollar, anything-goes Foundation – don’t “step down” for nothing yet here’s the way that the OWH’s Matthew Hansen reported on Castner’s “resignation:”

“He resigned because of management issues,” according to the [NU] Foundation Board’s Chairman and a Regent, who both declined to specify exactly what those issues were.” OWH Feb. 2, 2012.

Well, in the old days, reporters would have to find out exactly what those “management” issues were before the story would run. Editors – in my day – would have flipped out at a reporter who turned in such a story; yet, now it gets approved and printed. Truth be told, Hansen’s story raises more questions than it answers.

Then there’s this article by the OWH’s Leslie Reed – who I happen to like a lot personally – in which she announces that the new NU Foundation head – the person to take Castner’s spot – is an Ohio State administrator named Brian Hastings:

The OWH’s Leslie Reed concluded her story thusly, “The Foundation did not reveal the salary it intends to pay Hastings, who plans to start his new job in September [20102].”

Here’s what I say, “Well, find out some other way, Leslie.” Then again, she’s no doubt following some kind of OWH order. Leave the Big Battalions at the Foundation alone. Boys will be boys, after all.

Long ago, I started writing a book about the shenanigans – also known as corruption – between the NU Foundation, Nelnet, & NU – with the working title: “Platte RiVersailles.” For years, I’ve been calling the lavish salaries and immoral, king-like luxuries at the NU Foundation, a “Platte RiVersailles” situation.

I’m making a point of my title, “Platte RiVersailles” because of this little karmic twist: the OWH’s Leslie Reed filed her latest “non-story” on the billion-dollar NU Foundation’s Brian Hastings on this date: July 14th; which just so happens to be the date of the 1789 Storming of the Bastille, a date indelibly stamped in History as the beginning of the end of the real Versailles.

Whether that was a “cowinky-dink,” a God-wink, or Reed’s under-the-radar way to hood-wink the control freak Editors at the OWH, who knows, but it does illustrate this: the Universe sure works in mysterious ways.

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