Halliburton wouldn’t give the Casper Star-Tribune an interview, its editors say, unless it promised to not portray the company in “a negative light.”
Who did Halliburton think it was talking to, the University of Wyoming?
The giant energy services company is used to throwing its considerable weight around and getting what it wants, but it’s offensive – and foolish — for any corporation or business to try to tell a news organization what it can and cannot say about it.
See, newspapers let their readers know about such stupid restrictions, and they also make other media outlets aware of the situation. Whether it’s in print, online, on television or radio, now Halliburton is definitely guaranteed not to like how it’s portrayed in this incident. All the media needs to do is tell the truth about what happened, and let public opinion handle the rest.
Maybe because former Halliburton CEO and former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney is thought by some as a favorite son of the state, company executives think telling people in Wyoming how they can think and act is kind of like having a special hall pass that allows you to go through the school at any time and do anything you want, without ever having to answer to any authority.
Halliburton can’t even expect that kind of special treatment at UW, though donating $3 million toward building a new energy building at the institution, as Halliburton did recently, will obviously buy it more than its share of goodwill and the ability to ask for special favors. We here at WyPols don’t condone that kind of special treatment for anyone, but we recognize it exists.
Jeremy Fugleberg, Star-Tribune opinion editor, explained to Jim Romenesko, who writes an extremely popular blog about the media and how it works, what happened when the paper asked Halliburton for an interview. It was given a release to sign that stated it “agrees not to use the Media Video in a manner which could cause damage, injury or impairment or to portray Halliburton in a negative light.”
“Media Video,” in case you’re wondering, is Halliburton shorthand for interviews and photographs. If you’re wondering why they say it that way, so do we. Maybe they think it sounds more official.
The release also states that representatives of the company making the media request “should be accompanied by a Halliburton representative at all times, and … agree to follow health, safety and environmental requirements as necessary, and to restrict the Media Video to any assigned area.”
The Halliburton employees a news outlet wants to interview and/or photograph – sorry, I mean Media/Video – must also be preapproved by the company. This is the kind of thing they do at prisons in B movies, when the warden keeps reporters away from the hard cons who would spill the beans about how the place is really run if left alone with reporters.
“I’ve previously worked as a reporter and editor covering business and energy,” Fugleberg wrote. “I’ve never seen a [media release] with such a requirement. It makes me wonder: what other media outlet has been asked to sign this? Who’s said yes?”
Neither have we, Jeremy. It’s possible some Wyoming media signed the release before, but highly doubtful. No one, not even the smallest paper in the tiniest hamlet, should be that desperate to get a quote from Halliburton. It’s no secret to the public that a news organization doesn’t operate like this, and it’s unbelievable that a company as big and part of the power structure as Halliburton actually makes this release part of its official response to interview requests.
It’s also important to note that the request was not even made by the Star-Tribune’s news staff, but by “Live Well Wyoming,” its monthly health news supplement. This isn’t a knock against Live Well Wyoming, which is a fine publication, but we’re not talking about Woodward and Bernstein trying to take down Halliburton like they did Watergate, or even a case of a newspaper trying to play “gotcha” with a megacorporation. Live Well Wyoming is about as threatening as Bambi. It prints health news and information, and has a lot of pretty, flattering pictures about its subjects. It likely would have done the same for Halliburton, if it had been given the chance.
It’s kind of fun, though, to see a huge company like Halliburton held up to ridicule after making such a ridiculous, paranoid response to a request for a softball interview. Doesn’t it kind of make you wonder how it would react if a team of hot-shot investigative journalists paid a visit and snooped around for awhile?