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Friday, March 10, 2006

4 Sides Of The Story, Pt. 1

The after story of the Wal-Mart Bloggers piece from Tuesday's New York Times has been much more interesting than the story itself. As I posted a few days ago, I've gotten to talk to and e-mail media types I didn't figure I ever would, provide information to journalism schools and all kinds of other strange stuff.

I even got a new quote for my sidebar from Lone Wacko:

"I never thought I'd read the phrase Crazy Politico's Rantings in the NYT. I'll bet they never thought they'd print anything like that phrase either."

By following my site meter, inbox, and Technorati, I've been able to find links to the story all over the blogosphere. Because I'm cheap, and use the free Site Meter, I could only look at the 100 latest entries, so I'm sure I missed a lot of folks that day who showed up.

What I've found is that the links have fallen into four very general categories. Conservative Bloggers, Liberal bloggers, Media and PR folks, and the Anti-Wal Mart crowd. Because of length this is going to be a two part article. Part 1 will cover the bloggers, part 2 the media and Anti-Wal-Mart groups.

1. Generally conservative bloggers- For the most part they have been pretty supportive of the folks who took the tips from Edelman and did as they wished with them.

Brainster had a pretty good summary, and like the media and many others, was kind of tough of Brian from IowaVoice about not attributing some quotes from Edelman. Of all the folks who were mentioned in the NY Times story, Brian was whacked harder than anyone, unfairly in my opinion, for one mistake.

Brainster in turn pointed me to Jack Lewis, who termed the article "Muckraking", and gave a nice summary of when he decides to attribute a lead to the source:

"...I do often go beyond the information given in the original source, and if the bulk of the information I find on my own is greater than the original story, I'll omit mention of the original story, since it served only to alert me to the issue. I don't see anything wrong with that."
I don't see anything wrong with it either, Jack. I've started many an article with "As I was reading the news today", and don't mention the paper, because the rest of the article is opinion, or from somewhere else. But when I'm going to quote from them, they get a link and a mention.

Doug, at Below the Beltway points out that a public relations firm sending "pro Wal-Mart" mailings out is no different that political campaigns that target folks friendly to them. I'll attest to that, after a comment on a rather left leaning blog about Michael Steele I suddenly ended up on his mailing list.

John McAdams at Marquette Warrior has a lot of good links up to other blogs that have followed this, and were involved with Edelman. As the guy who "scooped" the Times on the story he's done a great job on keeping up with it in the general blogosphere.

Pamela over at "Atlas Shrugs" points out about Howard Kurtz follow up "This Washington Post article is the piece the New York Slimes Times should have written."

Sensible Mom, another of the "Wal-Bloggers" points out she's been writing about Wal-Mart since well before Marshall Manson started sending out e-mails. After reading her blog you'd be hard pressed to figure out which, if any posts were started based on his tips.

Most of the right took the story to be a hit piece on bloggers, which is really how it read. I'll give Barbaro a little slack, as I don't know what he wrote, and what the editors edited. However, I will say that he represented the story to me as a piece about corporate use of blogs for getting their message out, not one strictly focused on Wal-Mart.

2. Generally liberal bloggers- They were, for the most part shocked that this type of thing happened, and derided us as slackers and lackies for the corporate man. I found some of these folks amusing, many took a tip from Wal-Mart Watch, Wake Up Wal-Mart, or other sites, like Think Progress, and attacked us for taking tips from Wal-Mart.

Betsy Devine was the first one I found, and like most, she had a pretty rash, misinterpretation posted. However, I give her a lot of credit, when I called her on it, she checked, then corrected, and was very friendly about it. Thanks Betsy.

Christian Sarkar was the second place I found that was aghast this happened. His blog was hard to classify, while he writes mostly a business blog, he has just enough personal opinion on that I put him in this cateory.

While he opines on the subject of PR firms using the media/bloggers, "I tell you those days are over. Wal-Mart can change it's image, but only through actions, not PR", he forgets that most of Wal-Mart's image problems are caused by PR, not actions. Their image issues started hitting the radar just about the time unions started their "grassroots" movements, with PR reps, lobbyists, and million dollar budgets.

While his think "fair price" not "lowest price" mantra works well if you are targeting the upper middle class, lowest price is what appeals to Wal-Mart's target demographic. The company admittedly targets the lowest end of the economic scale, those folks are shopping by price. (Believe me, I know from experience)

My old buddy Steve, from the News Blog also weighed in. Here's a surprise, he thinks it's unethical. Why? He has two reasons, Wal-Mart is involved and he hates them, and some of the PR guys write at redstate.org, a site he considers racist. I wonder if they ever do minstrel cartoons of African American Senate candidates like Steve did? If you need to feel the love of the left, just read his comments.

Atrios was the one left wing site I visited that couldn't find the story in the story. "But "Wal- Mart PR guy reaches out to bloggers" just isn't much of a story. PR people reach out to me all the time. So what." While I disagree with 99% of his site, the Wal-Bloggers piece is one I will agree with.

Meat Eating Leftist perpetuates the myth that Wal-Mart paid the bloggers, evidently he missed this line in the Times article "...the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers"

I'd participate the conversation he want's to have with Wal-Mart's "shills", but refuse to register and get a separate password to comment on a blog.

Part 2 will show up on Saturday or Sunday, depending on how I'm feeling. While the blogosphere in general had a lot of reaction, the PR world had more. It was pretty unkind to some parties involved, and very helpful to others. You'll have to check back to find out who they were nice to.

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