Public Relations Professionals Pissed Off the New York Times ‘Haggler’

Way to go flacks who consistently give this profession a black eye, a bloody nose, a fat lip and a sweet wedgie. You all did it again—except to the wrong dude. This time, your unscrupulous actions of writing eight-paragraph pitches, conducting inane topical outreach and making badgering phone calls have incensed the great ‘Haggler’ of the New York Times. 

To those not in-the-know (and by the looks of this story, that’s several of you), meet David Segal.

He is much more than the consumer advocate reporter known as “The Haggler.” He is a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who deserves much better than what he reports here, in an article entitled “Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations Spam.” As I said, way to go.

Segal begins his story by sharing the laughable, dopey pitch sent to him:

“In January,” one of them began, “we traveled to Myanmar and purchased two wooden statues in a shop in Yangon.” This might be the least promising start of all time to a Haggler letter. Because do you know how much juice the Haggler has in Myanmar? None, ladies and gentlemen. Not a drop.

Where are the emails about mortgage rip-offs and foreclosure scams? Or rent-to-own fiascos? Or moving-company nightmares? Oh, how the Haggler longs for these gruesome yarns! Instead, do you know what hogs space in his benighted in-box?Emails with headers like “New! First Self-Chilling Iceless Drinking Glass — Editorial Sample?”

I understand the old grey lady has considerable reach, but Myanmar?! The hell? That’s Burma, as in outside of Thailand for those geographically challenged. I’m quite sure the Burmese are not beginning their day with a stiff cup of Joe and the New York Times. Nevertheless, here is this doltish flack and that pitch. Nice.

The Haggler continues to share his musings about how idiots like this got his email address. To wit, they actually responded, “Vocus.” (Yeah, you’re welcome for that bad PR.) To make things worse, the Haggler obviously wanted to opt-out of media lists like Vocus and Cision, so he calls Vocus and asks for its CEO, Rick Rudman. And guess what? That’s right … no return call. Stay classy, Vocus.

There are reasons why reporters hate us, and that’s one of the cardinal sins — not returning phone calls. We beg and plead for coverage, and then when we strike gold, some flacks have the nerve to not call back. That’s why the Haggler writes this:

A few months back, alterations were made to The New York Times’s email system, and suddenly the Haggler noticed that P.R. spam started showing up the way flying monkeys appear in “The Wizard of Oz.” Swarms landed each day, imploring the Haggler to write about Christmas Cookie Treat Boxes, or a document previewer called Igloo, or a liquor called Pura Vida Tequila, which “will be in the house this season at Qualcomm Stadium.”


1. Hilarious. 2. Sad. 3. I don’t know which is worse — he writes the warning that publications like the hallowed NYT is blacklisting PR firms or that we keep giving those publications ammunition.  Oh yeah, and when you read the article (which I highly recommend), you will note that Avalon Communications is not only the culprit (without a working website), but also guilty of the aforementioned cardinal sin as Vocus — they didn’t call him back either.


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