More on the 'Most Incredible' Fox News Travesty

By James Fallows

Last night I mentioned the virtually impossible-to-believe Fox and Friends segment in which the News of the World was presented as another victim of a hacking episode, rather than as the perpetrator. If you haven't seen it yet, please: you owe it yourself to watch at least the first 90 seconds.



Here's what I missed: I'm grateful to many readers for pointing out that the expert who discusses the hacking menace with Steve Doocy of Fox is indeed an expert -- in corporate public relations. He is Robert Dilenschneider (below), former head of Hill and Knowlton and now head of the Dilenschneider Group, who recently was featured in an interview, "How to Manage a PR Disaster."

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To Steve Doocy's credit, on first reference he introduces Dilenschneider as a PR expert. But through the rest of the conversation, the context and questioning are as if the guest's expertise were in hacking or data-security issues. Which is what I assumed on first viewing.

Thanks to many readers who, aware (as I was not) of Dilenschneider's eminence in the PR field, wrote to correct my impression. Many more wrote to ask whether his clients have included Murdoch or his businesses. I don't know; I've sent in a query today through the Dilenschneider Group's site; and will check with them on Monday.

 UPDATE: Robert Dilenschneider wrote back on Sunday to say that in fact his company does not represent, and has not represented, Murdoch interests. Noted for the record (and with appreciation for his quick reply.)

Pending that answer, I will say it is tantalizing to read some highlights from the Firm's list of credits on its "Achievements" page. If you put yourself in assignment-editor mode, practically every one of these suggests a very interesting potential story on the "how the world works" theme. Really, stop and think for a minute about each of these achievements and what it implies -- even allowing for the understandable possibility that the Firm is talking up its influence over the outcomes it describes:

>>The Firm arranged for USA Today editors to write a major feature story on one of America's leading personalities;

The Firm worked with and assisted the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in becoming a member of the board of a prestigious environmental group;

The Firm helped position an executive team as the best and brightest Internet visionaries who could foresee how the industry would evolve in years to come;

Continued to evaluate and critique quarterly earnings conference calls for a leading asset management firm client... Drafted and placed Op-Ed piece in a major media outlet under byline of the CEO;

The Firm enlisted consultant Victor Neufeld to counsel client and implement a program for a well-known charitable foundation, on a TV and other media public service campaign. Staged a private "Salon Dinner" for the foundation executives at the home of a renowned New York hostess attended by many prominent, philanthropic New Yorkers;

Working through a well known, market-oriented think tank, the Firm conceived and helped to implement a major Washington-based seminar designed to focus government and media attention on the need for tort reform;

The Firm arranged for a major financial institution to educate the editorial page editors of some of the nation's most influential newspapers on a critical social issue, which resulted in multiple articles on a subject in which there was a need for understanding by the public and selected legislators;

The Firm helped one of the largest private companies in the world to develop intelligence in Los Angeles and in other key U.S. markets, which enabled the organization to remove itself graciously from an embarrassing situation;

The Firm gave assistance to a major Asian political leader who wanted to publish a book in the U.S.;

The Firm interested Forbes magazine in undertaking a major article on a country's successful economic development program;

For a major service firm in Europe which required top-level meetings with key media, the Firm arranged for company executives to sit one-on-one with editors;

The Firm developed a corporate identity plan and strategies for subsidiaries for a global U.K.-based holding company:... <<

It's become conventional wisdom in the UK to say that this episode could lead to a fundamental rethinking of the interactions among press, politicians, lobbyists and interest groups, and even police. On what we know, the depth of the snarl and corruption in England far exceed any related effects in the United States. But it is possible to think that the role of Murdoch media, and their interactions with politicians and interest groups, will be fundamentally reconsidered here too.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/07/more-on-the-most-incredible-fox-news-travesty/242040/