The fact that Ketchum pitched Vladimir Putin’s controversial New York Times op-ed on Syria isn’t breaking news: We’ve already established, via ProPublica, that Ketchum places pro-Putin op-eds written by “independent businessmen” in publications like The Huffington Post and CNBC. Yet unlike those posts, this one was quite clear in its intentions, and the Times apparently handled it much like any other pitch. Op-ed page editor Andrew Rosenthal writes:
“I thought it was well-written, well-argued. I don’t agree with many of the points in it, but that is irrelevant.”
Critics pounced immediately, writing that the Times was “aiding and abetting a long-term foe of the United States” by running the op-ed. This is obviously not true, as Times public editor Margaret Sullivan notes that publication is “not an endorsement of [Putin] or his ideas” and that he didn’t get paid. Still, one reader who may or may not be this guy asks why the NYT doesn’t “…take issue with the fact that it was so obviously penned by Putin’s flacks.”
Was it? Putin’s spokesman now claims that the man himself wrote “the basic content” and that his “assistants” fleshed it out—but what about Ketchum?
General consensus calls the successful pitch “a PR coup” for Putin, but it’s led some in the industry to raise ethical issues:
— Kelli Matthews (@kmatthews) September 12, 2013