Saskatchewan Party CAUGHT Trying To Manipulate 'Letters to the Editor' and Callers To Call In Shows!
By Stephen Whitworth
February 14- 27, 2008 edition
Is the Saskatchewan Party looking for a propaganda coordinator? And if so, what’s the pay? I might be interested. Here’s the scoop: On Monday, Feb. 11 a former journalism student of my acquaintance was e-mailed a job posting from her alma mater. (This is common practice with vocational colleges: employers send their job postings to the schools, who forward them to recent graduates who might be looking for jobs.)
But aha! This was no ordinary job postings, as I learned when this student forwarded it to me. The Sask Party is apparently looking for a communications officer (a common job for graduates of journalism colleges, since nobody hires reporters these days). Duties include “research and write caucus news releases, speaking notes and legislative reports” and “monitor daily news coverage of provincial politics.”
There’s also “develops and maintains database of people who will write and/sign letters to the editor.” Wait a minute. The Sask. Party wants to HIRE someone to make of list of people willing to write letters to newspapers? Well, that doesn’t sound very good. And what’s with this “and/sign” stuff? If the people on this list aren’t writing the letters the Sask. Party apparently wants them to sign their names to, who is?
It doesn’t stop there. The next duty listed is “drafts letters to the editor, facilitates their signing and sends them to the print media.” And that’s followed by “develops and maintains database of people who will call in to radio or televised talks shows” and, naturally, “monitors talk shows, alerts our database of upcoming opportunities to participate.”
I don’t know what the Sask. Party wants with a list of people apparently keen to write the Leader-Post and call John Gormley but I can imagine how such a list would be useful. It’s just what you need to get a good propaganda campaign rolling. (I’m sorry, that was rude. I should say “grassroots marketing campaign.”)
That’s the only logical use such a list would seem to have - a tool to be used to help shape public opinion. This is similar to a tactic PR firms use: to help push a product, you get seemingly independent, regular people to write letters to newspapers. Hey presto. Free publicity!
I guess I should applaud the government for their commitment to emulating modern business practices. And I suppose I am not surprised - I seriously doubt this is the first political party in the province to hire propaganda officers. Might be the first political party dumb enough to send the job posting to journalists, though. Maybe the Sask. Party should hire back some of those civil servants they canned recently. The people working for them now don’t seem ready for prime time.
A footnote: The Saskatchewan Party sent out a corrected job posting later the same day, which in turn was forwarded to my journalism college alumnus acquaintance, who, of course, sent it to me. Hilariously, all the sketch ‘make-lists-of-people-who’ll-write-letters-to-newspapers” stuff was gone, replaced with much more banal list of typical communications hack duties like “attend meetings with the director of Caucus” and “drafting and designing constituency newsletters.”
I take it back. I’m not interested in applying for this job. Sounds boring. What’s the fun if I don’t get to make lists of people who will sign letters they didn’t write?
A final footnote: The best part of this forwarded e-mail might have been the confidential notice at the end. “This e-mail and any files transmitted with it are intended only for the named recipients ...” blah blah blah.. “If you are not the intended recipient please do not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail; without the consent of the sender.”
Yeah, good luck with that.
From the Editorial: ‘Propaganda Inc.’
February 14- 27, 2008 edition