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Don't Call Us
We'll Call You... Names

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whenever I check my office voice mail, I have to spend the first 15 minutes deleting messages. They all sound pretty much the same:

"Hi! This is Amber McChippie of Ernest N. Forthright Communications, and I was just following up on an e-mail I sent you about our client's intriguing new book, Squat-Thrust Your Way to Inner Peace and Firmer Abs, and . . ."

(star-D)

"Hi! This is Madison Rosenblatt-Gonzalez of Constance Naggington Communications, and I was just following up on an e-mail I sent you about our client's exciting new line of kangaroo--themed party bunting, and . . ."

(star-D)

"Hi! This is Heather . . ."

(star-D)

The reason I get these calls is that, many years ago, someone apparently furnished my name to several companies that publish media contact lists for PR people. And, for some reason, I was identified as a "lifestyles reporter." So far as I know, "lifestyles reporter" is a newsroom designation that doesn't actually exist except in the wishful thinking of PR professionals who need to believe there are people whose job compels them to be interested in "news" releases about upholstered lawn tractors, hip-hop accordion music and lemon-scented dental floss for dogs.

I have tried to get my name expunged from these lists, with little success. But, just the other day, I gotå an e-mail from one of these companies, asking me if I wanted to update my listing with additional information. This was a hugely exciting development.

Below, verbatim, are the questions, along with my responses.

Q: What are your beats?

A: My primary responsibility is to savagely attack the quality of retail products and services. I rely on initial cold-call contacts from PR professionals to select which companies I will attempt to bankrupt through unfair reporting techniques leading to shockingly unfounded criticism. For example, I will fail to disclose that the bicycle I panned as "slow, sluggish and difficult to maneuver" was test-driven at the bottom of a swimming pool.

My secondary responsibility mostly involves ripping PR professionals a new one.

Q: What types of stories would be of most interest to you?

A: I have many interests, principal among them is exposing America as a flabby, complacent society addicted to the purchase and consumption of products and services no one really needs, while famine spreads all over the globe. Some examples of this disgusting excess are every single product and service your particular company represents. I would appreciate a list of all your clients.

In addition, I am interested in exposing the unholy alliance between the aforementioned PR industry and the soulless marketing industry, which exists to dehumanize people, categorizing them not by any meaningful demographic relating to their needs or abilities, but by the likelihood they may be cajoled or deceived into making silly, discretionary purchases they cannot afford. Here are some analogies and comparisons I have used in the past to explain my feelings about the evil entity created by the entwinement of the marketing and public relations industries:

"The marketing-PR axis makes the team of Hitler and Mussolini seem benevolent. "

"When a sulfurous, steaming dish of public relations is liberally seasoned with oily globules of marketing, the resulting concoction could nauseate a carrion vulture."

"Marketing professionals are to PR professionals as Erszebet Bathory, the 16th-century noblewoman who killed her servant girls and bathed in their blood, is to the Gaboon viper, a six-foot-long spatulate-headed central African snake with two-inch fangs whose bite causes massive tissue damage, catastrophic internal hemorrhaging, hemorrhagic fever and a slow, shuddering death."

Q: What tips would you give PR professionals who may want to contact you? What is your preferred mention of being contacted?

A: I encourage midnight visits to my home by PR professionals who have no immediate relatives or close friends. Note: Please enter through the basement dungeon room.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at www.washingtonpost.com.

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