Media relations: church vs. state rivalry?

Sep 30, 2003 5:03 AM

Las Vegas has always been a city heavily promoted by press agents and publicity directors. But lately, a "holier than thou" mentality exhibited by some media types has angered PR people who rely on "good press" as part of their overall marketing efforts.

That "church versus state" rivalry boiled over in a G2E panel discussion on "How to Handle the Press" two weeks ago.

"Flacks versus hacks," said Robert Stewart, senior vice president of corporate communications for Park Place Entertainment and moderator of the session in describing the ongoing tug of war between public relations people and news journalists. "I think we all take ourselves too seriously."

Flack is a slang term for publicity agent while hack describes a grind-it-out writer.

Lesley Pittman, vice president for corporate and government relations for Station Casinos, agreed that both sides needed to work together.

"Sometimes I think I work for a company that can’t stand being out of the media," Pittman said. "We are often called on to rebut accusations. I think we are both reviled and loved by the media. The media loves when we give them stories, but there are times when what we believe is a positive promotion for the gaming industry fails to get reported."

Pittman cited Station’s involvement in educational funding for the community and not seeing significant press coverage.

"We are constantly trying to fight the battle to show that the gaming industry cares about the quality of life in Las Vegas, so when we see a story not given the coverage we feel it deserves, it causes problems," she said.

Rod Smith, a panelist and reporter for the Review-Journal, said the media’s role is often at cross-purposes with public relations campaigns.

"It is the role of the media to be accurate, complete and timely," Smith said. "Positive stories are alien in my world."

Adam Goldman, gaming correspondent for the Associated Press, said he’s become accustomed to "getting hammered by PR types."

"At the AP, we try to write stories that people would like to read in Boston and Minnesota because we are nationally based," Goldman said.

Smith agreed with Pittman that both groups needed to work together, suggesting that if stories don’t make it in the paper the first time around, "they should be pitched again."

"People in the gaming industry need to understand that events of the day may cause a story to be underplayed or omitted," he said. "They should not hesitate in pitching it again, maybe with a different angle, so that their point gets across in a way that it becomes a newsworthy story for us."