The business editors at all-news channel New York One have a mere one minute and forty-five seconds every morning to fill out their “Fortune Business Report” segment. Today they used about two-thirds of that time for an on-air spin buster of a USA Today article from a couple of weeks ago.
The USA Today story, which appeared on the front page of the April 17 Life section, applauded Spamalot, a new Broadway play, for its sell-out crowds and, in particular, its appeal to young men. Bill Haber, producer of the play, told USA Today, “Then the day we went into previews, there was a line down the block and around the corner, and 75 percent was under-40-year-old males. No one had ever seen that before.”
Sound like front-page news?
Not to New York One. “Savvy public relations can really make headlines,” anchor Eunie Han told New York One viewers this morning as she recapped the “young men” angle of the article. Introducing Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations, Han made it clear that the spin was a “clever myth pitched to get Spamalot some added press.”
Laermer explained further: “The way these people from the PR company got USA Today to put this on the front page of the Life section is they said that there is this myth that 18-to-34-year-olds who are male don’t actually go to the theater [or] buy tickets to things — maybe Jack Black movies — they don’t really do much, except buy video games and what have you. And they’re saying ‘We got them to come to the theater,’ the same way that a Giant magazine or Cargo magazine says that ‘We got them to buy magazines’ or [watch] ‘Family Guy’ on Fox. And this is a really interesting phenomenon. As a connoisseur of hype, my hat is off to the producers and PR people of Spamalot.”
The segment then cut back to Han, who reported what was accurate about the USA Today account of Spamalot — the large crowds and sold-out shows.
With only 105 seconds, it’s commendable that New York One saw fit to go back ten days and explain to its viewers how USA Today had been duped by PR spin. It’s the type of news that enlightens, and the type that CJR Daily would like to see more often, especially on TV.