I couldn’t help but notice something in this article. When they posted a picture of Mr. Cool DC Bro here with musician Dan Deacon, Dan Deacon (probably rightly) asked them to clarify that despite the looks of the picture, he was not, nor had he ever been, friends with Scott Greenberg, the new face of GOP astroturfing by appealing to the hip, young, edgy crowd. Which in and of itself reminds me of the joke on The Simpsons about cartoons trying to appeal to Gen-Xers, or maybe something closer to poochy.
But I digress. In Deacon’s clarification, via his manager Susan Busch, is this tidbit at the end:
Scott had Dan listed, with many many other bands he’s interviewed, as a client on his CV but removed his name upon request.
Now, there are a lot of ways to interpret “client.” As a freelancer, most of the time I go with “people I have written articles or other copy for” or occasionally, other projects I take on. Website migration, database research. Because that’s what most people would do, theoretically.
Now, I’ll try to give Greenberg a benefit of the doubt, as he appears to have some PR experience. However, there’s a difference between, say, having a consistent band or artist you work with on a contract basis creating press materials for, and someone you interviewed for Paste Magazine. The difference is huge.
Because an interviewee is not a client, and an article is not an endorsement. When I write about space technology for Popular Mechanics, I don’t think of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a client suddenly. Because I’m not reporting for them. I’m reporting about them. In no way has this created a client-contractor relationship. While lines between media coverage and PR may have been blurred with the rise of online media, surely it hasn’t obscured that far. I interviewed Ian MacKaye for Hear Nebraska. A 45 minute call talking about Fugazi playing in Lincoln 20 years ago didn’t suddenly create a rapport with him, nor constitute him being a client for me.
Let’s say, at some point, that Greenberg actually DID write a press release for Deacon, in fact creating that kind of relationship. 1) It was likely through the intermediary of a firm he was working for, and 2) if he was providing that same client with both press coverage and press promotion, that’s a big red conflict of interest flag.
So either he’s crappy at recognizing what does and does not constitute a client relationship, or he’s crappy at recognizing the line between journalism and PR. Either way, this is idiotic.