The Milwaukee Brewers are off to a good start this year–yet another reminder of how using food to entice reproters to cover your story works.
While Harley-Davidson was welcoming several hundred thousand bikers at its giant 100th anniversary reunion in Milwaukee several years ago, popular afternoon drive-time talk show host Mark Belling opened his show not with news about Harley, but about the bag of 50 hamburgers sent to his radio station by George Webb, the local chain of hamburger joints.
It was the restaurant’s way of attracting media attention for the challenge first issued to the Milwaukee Brewers back in the 1940s. That is, win 12 games in a row and the chain gives away free burgers for a day. With 10 straight wins and only two to go, the restaurant used the tried-and-true food bribe. Or in this case, the burger bribe. It sent bags of burgers to media folks all over town.
I heard Belling yacking about the free burgers for almost 10 minutes. He admitted that radio people are gluttons who are attracted to free food “like locusts.” And he said he heard other radio personalities talking about the free burgers on their shows much of the day.
The Brewers lost the next game. But the burger bribe earned George Webb what must have amounted to several hours of free air time worth several thousand dollars. Here’s why.
TV and radio personalities view themselves more as media stars than journalists. Unlike their brethren in the print media, they don’t worry about the ethical implications of accepting free food from people who want a story. In fact, if you send food to TV and radio stations and tie it into a clever story idea, you’re almost guaranteed coverage.