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NYT: More faux news shilled out by the Bush White House and our lazy-ass media

Is it real (news) or is it Memorex? A “report” on airport security improvements, courtesy of the Bush White House spin machine. Radio-Television News Directors Association’s Barbara Cochran thinks some of the ethics codes might need tightening up, Bahahahaha.

Un-f*cking-believable. The NYT reports in a lengthy, detailed piece, that even more fake news reports are being created by the White House and are being released to (and played by) media outlets that are broadcast all or in part without vetting. These phony news reports give viewers the impression that they are watching journalism in action. The real crime is that there is no outrage about the slack-ass, disturbing lack of journalistic ethics (and utter laziness) by the news outlets that are showing these pre-digested shill pieces for Chimpy policy.

News outlets, bastions of that highly regarded and above-reproach profession we know as journalism, that look down their noses at bloggers.

You’ll recall that the Bush administration spent over $250 million (in ithe first term) on public relations contracts. That, according to the Times, is nearly double what the last Clinton administration spent, so there’s a wealth of this slickly-produced propaganda out there to sway the unsuspecting public.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration’s efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the “reporters” are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government’s news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration…Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation’s largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

The next section really grinds my *ss because it’s clip-job journalism. These news stations/affiliates seem to have abandoned all pretense that they want to do original work, and actually welcome these pre-digested news bits. It makes you understand why broadcast journalism has become one big dung heap, a mass of waste product that’s pawned off to the sheeple, who don’t have critical thinking skills and that’s one big set up for what happened in election 2004.

…Local affiliates are spared the expense of digging up original material. Public relations firms secure government contracts worth millions of dollars. The major networks, which help distribute the releases, collect fees from the government agencies that produce segments and the affiliates that show them. The administration, meanwhile, gets out an unfiltered message, delivered in the guise of traditional reporting.

…in three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress that studies the federal government and its expenditures, has held that government-made news segments may constitute improper “covert propaganda” even if their origin is made clear to the television stations. The point, the office said, is whether viewers know the origin. Last month, in its most recent finding, the G.A.O. said federal agencies may not produce prepackaged news reports “that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials.”

So you would think that maybe the news directors would self-police, making sure that their mission of their stations is not compromised. Apparently not, and the FCC hasn’t stepped in to stop the corruption either.

Clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outsiders.”

Those words are from the code of ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the main professional society for broadcast news directors in the United States. Some stations go further, all but forbidding the use of any outside material, especially entire reports…the news directors association is close to proposing a stricter rule, said its executive director, Barbara Cochran. Whether a stricter ethics code will have much effect is unclear; it is not hard to find broadcasters who are not adhering to the existing code, and the association has no enforcement powers.

The Federal Communications Commission does, but it has never disciplined a station for showing government-made news segments without disclosing their origin, a spokesman said.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding