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Truth or bull?

By Jullie Y. Daza

Fake news: There’s a rice shortage.

Fake news: There’s no rice shortage.

Fake news: The NFA misadministrator has resigned, following the example set by Justice Secretary Aguirre.

Fake news: President Digong declared April 2, Easter Monday, a holiday to give the people a longer long weekend.

Fake news: That declaration was made during the worldwide celebration of April Fool’s Day.

But why call it news when it’s fake and as false as a lie. . . propaganda. . .deception calculated to raise false hopes or exaggerate a fact.

In today’s politically charged atmosphere, what fake ”news” amounts to is either suspiciously or obviously propagandist. Public relations is not always propaganda, though it may show some of the tendencies of propaganda (“ganda” as in look good?), such as to change a mindset or perception, improve an image, save a reputation.

Even the Oxford Dictionary, as quoted by Dr. Ricardo Suarez Soler in his foreword to Charlie Agatep’s ground-breaking book on the practice of public relations in the Philippines, could not help dishing out this throwaway line: “Public relations is often looked down on by media.”

Charlie, who taught p.r. to journalism seniors in UST once upon a time, will fight tooth and nail to deny that smirky aside, knowing there’s more to p.r. than hosting and attending cocktail parties and churning out unreadable, unusable press releases. Written for practitioners and students – granting, the latter read books that are 450 pages long – Winning the Anvils is chockfull of case studies, the results of effective p.r.: Agatep Group won 137 Anvils between 1973 and 2016. (The Anvils, according to PRSP rumor, are the equivalent of Hollywood’s Oscars. And the awards ceremonies are just as long, with so many categories of winners.)

As I recall, Prof. Agatep’s favorite line was, “Public relations is doing good and telling the public.” In the real world where life is no longer as simple as being able to tell what’s true and what’s bull, author Agatep adds that p.r. is also about being “socially responsible,” spreading goodwill, “giving back to the community,” so that in the end “a good name is enhanced and protected during bad times.” Spoken like a true p.r.!

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