Monday, July 18, 2005

NYT: "Public Relations Campaign for Research Office at E.P.A. Includes Ghostwriting Articles" (Felicity Barringer)

The Office of Research and Development at the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking outside public relations consultants, to be paid up to $5 million over five years, to polish its Web site, organize focus groups on how to buff the office's image and ghostwrite articles "for publication in scholarly journals and magazines."
The strategy, laid out in a May 26 exploratory proposal notice and further defined in two recently awarded public relations contracts totaling $150,000, includes writing and placing "good stories" about the E.P.A.'s research office in consumer and trade publications.
The contracts were awarded just months after the Bush administration came under scrutiny for its public relations policies. In some cases payments were made to columnists, including Armstrong Williams, who promoted the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind and received an undisclosed $240,000. In January, President Bush publicly abandoned this practice.

They're at it again. The above is from Felicity Barringer's "Public Relations Campaign for Research Office at E.P.A. Includes Ghostwriting Articles" in this morning's New York Times.

Anybody know the status on The Stop Government Propaganda Act?

Remember Armstrong Williams (and others)?

If not, check out Democracy Now!'s "FAIR on Bush Admin Funding of Armstrong Williams: 'The Government Is Running a Domestic Propaganda Operation Secretly Targeting The American People:'"

AMY GOODMAN: The Bush administration paid a prominent pundit, Armstrong Williams, close to a quarter of a million dollars to promote its controversial No Child Left Behind Act on his nationally syndicated TV show to urge other black journalists as well to do the same. Williams was required to, quote, "regularly comment on No Child Left Behind during the course of his broadcast" and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004. His contract was part of a million dollar government deal with public relations firm, Ketchum, that produced fake, prepackaged news reports known as video news releases, or VNRs, that were designed to look like news reports, and were used to promote No Child Left Behind. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office which called them, "an illegal use of taxpayer dollars." Just last week, the G.A.O scolded the Bush administration a second time for distributing VNRs, this time produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy concerning the dangers of marijuana. They featured former reporter, Mike Morris, and were aired, at least in part, on 300 news show. The G.A.O called it, quote, "illegal government propaganda." This is an excerpt of that video news release.
MIKE MORRIS: The good news is that parents can make a difference. Research shows that two-thirds of teens say that upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs. So, what can parents do?
MARIJUANA "EXPERT": There are a number of things that parents can do to prevent their kids from getting involved with marijuana. One of them is they need to set rules and set consequences with those rules in their household. They also need to understand the facts about marijuana and to share those and express those with their children. They need to make sure that they know who their children are hanging out with, make sure that they know where they are at all times, and then they also need to engage their children perhaps in summer activities to keep them busy so they don't have too much free time on their hands. And most of all, they need to reserve time to spend time family and quality time together, and also save time to communicate one-on-one with their children.
ANOTHER "EXPERT": The principle rule about good parenthood in the summer, which will prevent not only marijuana use but other kinds of unacceptable behavior is really about common sense, about giving kids good counsel, about being present in their lives every day and every week in some substantial way.
MIKE MORRIS:For more information about marijuana and advice on raising drug-free teens, visit the This is Mike Morris reporting.
AMY GOODMAN: That video news release made by Gourvitz Communications, commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and on Gourvitz‘s website they say: “Imagine the credibility to be gained by having your message delivered by a trusted news anchor as opposed to a paid commercial spot, and you begin to realize the power of Broadcast Public Relations.” Steve Rendall is with us of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. Let's start with Armstrong Williams and move into these VNRs, video news releases.
STEVE RENDALL: Well, I think before starting with Armstrong Williams we have to – the big news here is that the White House, that the government, is running a domestic propaganda operation secretly targeting the American people. Whether you're talking about Armstrong Williams misrepresenting himself as an independent commentator and thinker when he's really working for the government, or you're talking about these news segments, which – these video news releases that are being run as news segments when they really are White House propaganda, that's the big story. The story about Armstrong Williams is – it’s a sad story. It's a conservative pundit who has – who’s selling his – his opinions to the White House. He is acting as a secret agent of the government to spread the – to try to persuade people to go along with government programs. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It began, by the way, in the Clinton administration with anti-drug messages that were being worked into – into television dramas and such. That's where it started. The Bush administration though this po – under the Bush administration the policy has bloomed. You’ve had Armstrong Williams going forth with the No Child Left Behind point. Last year, of course, there was the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. They ran fake news segments on that.

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