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Flacks at a Sydney PR conference were told by journalists who were guest speakers that gifts were a great idea to get noticed. The Web site, Mumbrella, writes that one radio producer said, "We love gifts." "Free stuff" such as "concert tickets and food" were among the helpful suggestions.

A media ethics news theme emerged from around the globe today. Journalists may be for sale.

Judging from today’s Washington Post scandal–where PR types were offered opportunities to buy access to Washington Post “journalists and editors” for big bucks (see story broken by the blog, Politico) –financial and market pressures predict there will be many more cases of the PR wolves being invited into the journalism hen houses. Here’s another case today…in Australia.

Mumbrella, an Australian Web site, reports that journalists encouraged public relations folks to send reporters gifts at the “Maximise The Media” conference in Sydney organized by events company, Networx. Mubrella quotes Sophie Onikul, executive producer, radio 2GB’s “Ray Hadley Morning Program.”

“Anything free. We love free stuff. It cuts through,” Onikul said. “We love gifts. You guys think we have this awesome life, we really don’t, so send us stuff.”‘ The web site reports that Onikul also specifically suggests such gifts as “concert tickets and food” were a way for PR representatives to get noticed from among the pack of “80 to 90 press releases she receives every day.”

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Louise Roberts, from the Sphere Public Relations, Australia, in the Mubrella comments section writes: “Come on, there have to be some perks to being a journalist and getting the occasional gift – concert/theater/cinema/sports game ticket, posh lunch, yacht trip, or even the actual product you are pushing isn’t so outrageous!  Just don’t expect media coverage in return. I do believe that it can help to build relationships with individual media contacts and I’m sure most media would like the practice to continue.”

Run by an alleged journalist Timothy James Burrowes, Mumbrella describes itself as, “Everything under Australia’s media and marketing umbrella.” Burrowes writes, “The boss of News Ltd selected Mumbrella as one of two examples of Australian websites that are leeching off journalism in Australia (I paraphrase only slightly).” Bloggers were accused of producing only 10% original content.

My bet is Mumbrella’s report, titled, “If you want journos’ attention send us free stuff, PRs are told,” is not among those lifted from mainstream media (MsM) news reports. In fact, one of the main Australian newspapers reports on Mumbrella’s “beware PR flacks bearing gifts” story.

The Sydney Morning Herald  quotes Ian Holland, radio 2GB program director. “It was all a joke,” says Holland. According to the paper, Holland explains that his colleague,Onikul, “was one of a number of speakers who were asked to be entertaining.” Holland assures readers: “Absolutely nobody is more aware of cash for comment than we are. We go to extraordinary lengths to be squeaky clean.” Right, concert tickets anyone?

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Send Us Gifts and Free Stuff say Australian Journalists

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