It may be heresy coming from a PR pro, but I am disheartened by the news that the impending American version of Britain’s OK Magazine may pay Michael Jackson $2 million for an “exclusive.” My distaste has less to do with Mr. Jackson’s guilt or innocence, and everything to do with the notion of pay-for-play masquerading as journalism. It has Armstrong Williams written all over it, but the payola is flowing in the opposite direction.
Ketchum bought (Williams), while Jackson sold — each in an attempt to advocate in a controlled “editorial context.” Jackson’s handlers are trading on his celebrity to gain that control (though it helped that OK is willing to sell its journalistic soul to make a big splash on these shores. )
If OK’s single-copy sales go as expected, then both enterprises will find themselves in the same leaky boat. Unfortunately, OK‘s reputation will likely remain unscathed, which is more than I can say for Williams’.
(I wonder if OK’s deal with the Jackson camp precludes the magazine from reporting on the dissenting juror’s book deals?)