Sharron Angle is getting lightly braised by liberals and conservatives alike for saying, during an interview with Fox News's Carl Cameron, that her campaign wanted the press to be its friend.
"We needed the press to be our friend," Angle told Cameron, and when he laughed and told her "that sounds naive," Angle elaborated: "Well, no. We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."
This strikes me as the most basic articulation I've ever heard of political PR, which is ubiquitous as a process and as an industry. Everyone has a communications director. Everyone tries to get favorable coverage. Political communications strategy is about controlling image, and that has a lot to do with friendly press and the reporting of news that you like. Angle put that in children's book formulation and got laughed at.
Questions have been raised over whether it was wise for Angle to actually say this out loud. That's a good point, but Angle's take on media relations seems so obvious that it shouldn't be taboo to voice.
A political press operative had a different view: "It's mainly about driving your message...Finance staff see [friendly coverage] as the benefit of it, but from my point of view you do press to get press and drive message, and of course you mix in favorable outlets to get better coverage or push stories, but you also do all outlets and even tough ones...sometimes because that balances out your coverage...if you come at it with that attitude you fundamentally misunderstand how press and reporters operate..."
The last part, especially--misunderstanding how press and reporters operate--is partly, I think, why people are laughing at Angle (that and the fact that she voiced this perspective on TV). You can't count on the press to be your friend, but you can try.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.