A Towson-based public relations firm, Nevins & Associates, found itself in the news after the Sacramento Bee obtained a proposal to manage the negative results of a November 2011 campus protest where a police officer pepper-sprayed students at the University of California, Davis.

In a story headlined “U.C. Davis Learns Downside of Trying to Scrub Search Results,” The New York Times reported:

“The university paid at least $175,000 to two public relations firms to suppress the negative search results generated by its name, and the name of its chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, according to a report this week by The Sacramento Bee. The news has caused some California lawmakers to call for her resignation.”

The New York Times story continued: “One of the firms, Nevins & Associates, based in Maryland, said it would ‘launch an aggressive and comprehensive online campaign to eliminate the negative search results for UC Davis and the Chancellor through strategic modifications to existing and future content and generating original content as needed,’ according to its contract, which was obtained by The Bee through a freedom of information request. Under the contract, signed in January 2013, more than two years after the protest, the university agreed to pay $15,000 per month for six months.”

The Washington Post reported that the university also hired Sacramento-based ID Media Partners, known as IDMLOCO, in 2012 for $82,500 to “design and execute a comprehensive search engine results management strategy” with the intent to “achieve a reasonable balance of positive natural search results on common terms concerning UC Davis and Chancellor Katehi,” according to the proposal.

The Bee reported that IDMLOCO was awarded a second contract in February 2015 for $8,000 a month (up to a maximum of $96,000) to improve the university’s social media program; a third contract was awarded in September 2015 for $22,500 a month (up to a maximum $67,500) for a strategic communications redesign.

An Interet search shows the story about the two contracts also appears in the Los Angeles Times, Vox, CNET, Engadget, BBC News, Voice of America, Slate, and TIME magazine among other outlets.

Photo Credit: Wayne Tilcock/The Enterprise, via Associated Press

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