It’s said that Public Relations professionals read the newspapers not to get the news, but to study angles and understand what stories are planted in newspapers by people with PR in mind.
This morning reading The New York Times, the crossroads of Public Relations & legal was smack in my face while reading an article about Jeffrey Conroy, who has been convicted of killing a Hispanic immigrant in a hate crime in Long Island New York. He’s in jail, awaiting sentencing on May 26th, and this article, which fawned all over him, was planted in an attempt to soften the public’s image of him (and of course influence the atmosphere in the court to give him a light sentence)…
Amidst pictures of his smiling, All-American looking family, we learn in this page-long NY Times story at:
He’s 19 years old “and it shows…. he has the face, the demeanor and the vocabulary of a boyish teenager.” Sub-text: He’s young and made a mistake – Give him another chance.
He was a “friendly, athletic teenager willing to stick up for others, of someone who counted several Hispanics among his closest friends, including the girl he had been dating off and on for years.” Sub-text: He’s no racist.
He spoke of his “love and concern for his family: After the guilty verdict was announced in the courtroom… he turned and saw two of his sisters in tears, and told them not to worry, that everything would be all right.” Sub-text: His family will suffer too.
He spoke of “praying in his cell, for his family and for Mr. Lucero’s family” and his mother “had taught Sunday school for seven years at her church…” and his father is now “on disability… and is who a leader in organizing youth sports.” Sub-text: Good people – Religious & helps kids.
He was a “mentor to children… and helped coach 11-year-old football players at age 16, and spent one summer improving one boy’s lacrosse skills, because the boy’s mother had asked him to help her son.” Sub-text: He’s a good kid.
He recounted confronting two white men outside a convenience store in 2007, defending a Hispanic man. He warned men not to steal the Hispanic’s man bike “whom he believed to be an immigrant day laborer.” Sub-text: Conroy (the only of the 7 defendants who has received any media coverage) doesn’t hate Hispanics and in fact has helped some.
A 40-year-old is quoted as saying: “I believe that he got roped into events that others had started, and being 17 and filled with testosterone, sometimes you do things that get the best of you before you can think about it clearly.” (The next line goes on to state that: Mr. Conroy’s intent to kill was evident because the entire blade went into Mr. Lucero’s chest area and was stopped only by the handle.”) Sub-text: He made a mistake – Maybe don’t let him play video-games for a few weeks?
The article ends by stating: If Mr. Conroy were not in jail, he said he could imagine the life he would be leading: playing midfield on a college lacrosse team, either at the State University at Albany or at Plattsburgh. And his thigh would no longer have the swastika. “It doesn’t mean anything to me at all,” Mr. Conroy said.
I’d venture this article was planted by someone on Conroy’s Public Relations team, and will have sway and influence (I believe it was very biased, and amazingly no one from the victim’s family was interviewed at all). The PR agency which I own does a tremendous amount of crisis PR agency work and litigation work which we cannot often discuss, and PR firms absolutely are hired to influence judges & juries.
Public Relations pros read the papers differently – Or did this article simply belong as an OP-ED ? Food for thought. I welcome your feedback via comments, or directly via email at Ronn@5wpr.com