When you are in any form of media, it’s important to disclose that the information you’re providing is either your own, or that you were requested or required to say something by your company’s mandate. Or if you are offering testimony on a product in your blog or in your podcast, you need to disclose if the company provided that product to you in exchange for a favorable review.
It’s important that you do this. You need to be clear that what you’re talking about online or in front of a camera is either your own personal opinion, or that the item is a paid advertisement. Besides, there’s an FTC mandate regarding same.
Yesterday, on my way home, I turned on the satellite radio in my car and listened to the news. Point of disclosure – I pay for my SiriusXM satellite radio, they don’t provide me with any benefits or freebies.
And the shock of the night – was hearing that Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was not only Donald Trump’s personal attorney … he was also the personal attorney for another television personality.
Yep, Sean Hannity. Point of disclosure – I avoid listening to Sean Hannity the same way I avoid listening to Nickelback. He is a commentator and a political pundit, and you take that for what it’s worth.
So in the past, he’s had Michael Cohen on his television show and asked Cohen about various matters involving Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But what he didn’t reveal is that, according to the filings in the Southern District of New York yesterday, Hannity is alleged to have been one of Michael Cohen’s clients.
This is not just a failure of disclosure … it’s a big fat conflict of interest.
Plain and simple.
Hannity responded to the claim, announcing that he had never retained Cohen as his attorney, but he did ask Cohen about various real estate matters.
But the reveal certainly made waves around the late night talk show circuit. And one of Sean Hannity’s biggest foils, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, had a field day with this one. Point of disclosure – I don’t normally watch Jimmy Kimmel, and I probably haven’t paid attention to him since the day he was the co-host on Win Ben Stein’s Money.
Stephen Colbert also took a few swings at this low-hanging fruit. Point of disclosure – Stephen Colbert hasn’t really been as funny as when he was doing The Colbert Report way back in the day. But that’s just me.
Here’s the thing. And I’ve mentioned this before in my blog.
The fact that Sean Hannity has Michael Cohen as his personal attorney, in whatever capacity he may retain him, isn’t the issue for me.
What is the issue is that Hannity never disclosed this information when he’s had Cohen on his radio or TV show. So for viewers, they don’t know whether the opinions espoused from Cohen on Hannity’s TV or radio shows are Cohen’s own words and thoughts, or if they are part and parcel with what Hannity wants him to say.
It’s the reason why I can’t suddenly go on this blog and say that Canon Cameras are the greatest cameras in the whole world, without revealing that Canon sent me five of their high-end models in exchange for such testimony. I can’t suddenly say that Dodge is the greatest car company in the world, without revealing that FiatChrysler just sent me a 2019 Dodge Hellcat, fully tricked out.
In other words … you’re not getting news. You’re getting a script. And it’s playing off what mass media wants you to think.
And it also breaks down any sort of trust between the news we receive and the commentary based upon it.
By the way, full disclosure – Michael Cohen has never been MY attorney. I can screw up legal matters on my own, I don’t need his help for that. 😀