The Winner: WWF. No, not the World Wrestling Federation — the conservation corporation formally known as World Wildlife Fund. They’ve come a long way from hippies in koala suits.

As a PR stunt for the WWF name, the Sydney Earth Hour event is the best thing they’ve ever managed. No wonder WWF Australia believes the international WWF organisation will adopt the scheme. Today, massive publicity for a little tokenism in Sydney; tomorrow, the world.

And one can only imagine it hasn’t been bad for drumming up donations either. The first thing you see on their website is the big Earth Hour logo with a button to learn more alongside a button to donate. No doubt that logo is registered and will have rich licensing potential. Everyone wants to be seen being warm and fuzzy with the crowd.

The Loser: the media that went along for the ride. Credibility is the base load of journalism – and credibility is damaged when news organisations turn themselves into uncritical cheer squads.

Because it should know better, the SMH was perhaps the worst offender. The paper went ga-ga in its Earth Hour gushing, even printing an edition last week on green paper, while Sun-Herald staff reportedly worked by lantern light to produce Sunday’s paper with “green energy” purchased from a wind farm.

And maybe it’s worse. It’s hard to imagine that no-one at Fairfax questioned the big spin about actually reducing greenhouse gas while promoting WWF.

And there are the questionable “before and after” pix on today’s front page. I can’t help suspecting the bright city lights shot wasn’t taken at 7:29pm Saturday – or anytime on March 31. But the caption left it ambiguous by simply stating: “Before and after… the view from The Connaught apartment building in Liverpool Street over the Cenotaph and Hyde Park”

As a spectacle, the real thing wasn’t nearly as impressive.

No doubt WWF and SMH will justify the whole thing as a consciousness-raising exercise and never mind the CO2 reality. They’ve been spinning very successfully thus far.

Meanwhile the Terror today totally ignores the exercise. Looks like it wasn’t their franchise.

PS. An attempt to check when the photograph was taken seems to have hit the twin obstacles of Crikey’s deadline and the SMH editor’s daily news conference.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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