OLD Media Moves

WSJ to keep PR CEO as columnist

August 27, 2009

Hamilton Nolan of Gawker reports that The Wall Street Journal has decided it will keep Mark Penn, the CEO of PR firm Burson-Marsteller, as a columnist despite the disclosure this week that he was recruiting companies mentioned in his columns after they ran.

Nolan writes, “Today, WSJ spokesman Robert Christie explained the results of the paper’s thorough investigation like so:

‘Mark has assured us that through our conversations that he’s complied with his conflict of interest policy. He does not have any glamping clients nor did they target them before the column appeared.’

“That’s right: The WSJ’s investigation consisted of calling Mark Penn and asking him, ‘Hey, did you comply with that conflict of interest policy?’ The world-famous investigative skills of the WSJ in action, ladies and gentlemen. As a follow-up, we asked Christie if he was implying that it’s fine for a columnist to go recruiting clients from a column he just wrote after it’s published. His reply:

‘Obviously when you have a contributor, they use a column to market themselves. Clearly what was done is not something that we liked. But we’re pretty sure that it’s going to stop.’

“The Wall Street Journal is ‘pretty sure’ that Mark Penn’s PR firm will stop using its CEO’s purportedly unbiased column as a business recruitment tool! Why are they “pretty sure?” Because Mark Penn said so!”

Read more here.

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