Over the past month LNG Watch has witnessed first hand the power ExxonMobil wields in the national and international media. Reporting on one of the worst disasters (Tumbi landslide) in PNG's history has been minimal and desperately lacking in critical edge, with a number of honourable exceptions. Indeed, how many stories have we seen from ground zero, relating victim's stories or the humanitarian situation? A part of the problem is ExxonMobil enjoys close and collegial relationships with major media outlets, so close in fact that newspapers such as The National and The Post-Courier publish ExxonMobil's press releases as news.
Sadly, it now appears one of PNG's most prolific bloggers, Malum Nalu - the winner of the 2011 UNESCO/Divine World University Award for Communication and Development - is replicating the mass-media's bad practice by posting press releases from ExxonMobil on his popular blog, without any clear indication of its origins*. As a result, readers could at best believe this is an independently written news story, or at worst a personal endorsement from Malum Nalu himself. Of course, we wait with bated breath to see how long it takes for this same press release to be published in The National and/or The Post-Courier, without acknowledgement that it is an ExxonMobil press release.
On the bright side, at least we still have bloggers like Martyn Namarong doing the job that was once the domain of the independent media.
Malum Nalu's Report on PNG LNG
* The Exxon statement was posted by Malum Nalu within 24 hours of its release - we wonder was a friendly phone call made or email sent by Rebecca Arnold, ExxonMobil's Media and Communications adviser?