Thursday, April 06, 2006

Other Items

Many television news stations, including some from the nation's largest markets, are continuing to broadcast reports as news without disclosing that the segments were produced by corporations pitching new products, according to a report to be released today by a group that monitors the news media.
Television news directors have said that the segments, known as video news releases, are almost never broadcast, but the group assembled television videotape from 69 stations that it said had broadcast fake news segments in the past 10 months.
The new report was prepared by the Center for Media and Democracy, which is based in Wisconsin and which describes itself as dedicated to "exposing public relations spin and propaganda."

The above is from David Barstow's "Report Faults Video Reports Shown as News" in this morning's New York Times. The article may be most amazing not for what it reports but for what it misses. In the current edition of Extra! (page 17), Janine Jackson (co-host of CounterSpin) contributes "Prepackaged News: Straight from the Source, No Journalism Required." Among the examples Jackson notes is this item:

Though the advantages of prepackaged news are evident -- it costs little or nothing, and it pleases powerful newsmakers -- apparently those enticements are not enough to make some journalists sacrifice their professional integrity. That may be why one PR outfit has sweetened the pot -- offering newspaper and radio editors game show-like prizes, including refrigerators and gas grills, for using their material. NewsUSA Inc. produces audio clips, newspaper copy and radio scripts on behalf of paying clients including corporations and associations (Washington Post, 12/12/05). In exchange for using these items to fill their pages or airtime, news professional can enroll in the "Editor Rewards Program" and earn "points" towards products in the company's "prize catalogue." Journalism awards, presumably, are not among the goodies on offer.

That's one of the items Jackson notes, only one. Barstow's article is light on examples and light on context. Jackson's article is a sidebar to "Fear & Favor 2005" (written by Jackson, Julie Hollar and Hillary Goldstein, pages 15-20). In a sidebar, she provides more context than the Times does in a 'hard news' article this morning. Apparently all the work required for Barstow was to have a report passed on and then to make a call to an FCC commissioner and one to the president of Radio-Television News Directors. That's it. He was probably able to call it an early day. And the Times wants to pass it off as informed reporting. If you're interested in a more indepth look, you can check out Democracy Now! today. Scheduled topic:

* Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed -- A new report by PR Watch exposes video news releases disguised as real news on local TV

Reminder, the monthly comedy program Christmas Coup Players airs this morning on WBAI. Or should, it's the first Thursday of the month. If you're having problems with the stream or unable to listen live, you can visit the WBAI archives. It airs at eleven eastern time. (Do the math if you're not in that time zone.) It's preceeded by one of Ruth's other favorite programs, First Voices Indigenous Radio so that's recommended as well. (First Voices airs at ten am eastern time.)

End Zone notes David Lindorff's "Bashing Hugo Chavez at the New York Times" (CounterPunch) and adds to note "Francisco, it has a critique of the littlest Judith Miller." From the article:

What do you call a nation that provides medical aid to desperately poor people in Mexico, heating assistance to low-income families in the U.S., crucial project financing to some of the poorest countries in Africa, and aid to impoverished Caribbean island nations?
If you're the New York Times, you call it "provocative," and you call the leader of that country "the next Fidel Castro."
Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, has been turning its increasingly valuable oil reserves into an engine for development, not just in Venezuela, where the revenues are being used to finance schools, housing and job creation for the nation's long-suffering and long-ignored poor, but also across Latin America, in the process creating a new model for Latin America-one which challenges the imperial domination of the United States.
In an April 4 page one article that reeks of Cold War rhetoric, Timesman Juan Forero warns that with Venezuela's oil revenues rising 32 percent last year, Venezuela's foreign aid spending "now surpasses the nearly $2 billion Washington allocates annually to pay for development programs and the drug war in western South America." (The drug war is foreign aid?)
Quoting only Chavez critics-both political opponents within Venezuela, and U.S. government and right-wing think tank members in the U.S.-Forero paints an ominous picture of a budding threat to U.S. influence in the Americas.

Martha notes Christopher Lee's "A Marine's Mother" (Washington Post) which details further disgusting news. The first paragraph brings you up to date if you're unfamiliar with the story:

Last August, Danielette James, 58, a federal custodian who cleans congressional offices five nights a week, unsuccessfully pleaded with her bosses for time off to welcome home her son, a Marine who was returning to Camp Lejeune, N.C., after seven months in Iraq.

That was then. Now? James' son, Eric McIntire, was killed near Baghdad and she learned that on Sunday. From the article you learn that her employers are still all heart (that's sarcasm):

James stayed home from work yesterday and Monday to grieve; she says she has been asked to bring in a copy of her son's obituary. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.

Again, all heart. "Sure take off Monday, we understand . . . You will be bringing in a copy of an obituary, right? We trust you." It's not like they could verify that themselves, right? Oh, wait, they could. Just by going online. Well, I'm sure there is a rash of parents trying to cheat their workers by falsely claiming their children have passed away while serving in Iraq, right? No, not much chance of that either. They know her son is serving in Iraq and if they need verification, they can go to the government website themselves. Their cruel disregard continues. Tone's set at the top.

In other homefront news, Chris notes John Nichols' "Wisconsin Towns Vote for Withdrawal" (The Online Beat, The Nation):

There's not much question that the majority of the 2,000 residents of this rural northeastern Wisconsin village of well-maintained homes, neat storefronts and large churches think of themselves as old-fashioned Midwestern conservatives.
So, by the calculus of the Bush White House and its echo chamber in the national media, Luxemburg ought to be just about the last place in the United States to express doubts about the President's handling of the war in Iraq. And surely, no national pundit would have predicted that the village would vote in favor of a referendum declaring: "Be it hereby resolved, that the Village of Luxemburg urges the United States to begin an immediate withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves."
Yet on Tuesday, the citizens of Luxemburg did exactly that, endorsing the immediate withdrawal referendum with a clear majority of their votes.
Luxemburg was not the only Wisconsin community that voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004 but voted against his war Tuesday. Up the road from Luxemburg, the villages of Casco and Ephraim voted for Bush in 2004 and immediate withdrawal in 2006. Across the state in northwest Wisconsin, the towns of Ojibwa, Draper and Edgewater, all of which backed Bush two years ago, voted against the war on Tuesday.

Same topic, Cindy notes Emily Fredrix's "24 Wisconsin Communities Vote for Iraq Pullout" (Associated Press via Common Dreams):

Thousands of voters turned out in Wisconsin to offer a purely symbolic but heartfelt message: Bring the troops home from Iraq.
By margins overwhelming in some places and narrow in others, voters in 24 of 32 communities approved referendums Tuesday calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Joy Kenworthy, 78, of Madison, doesn't mind that the nonbinding referendums have no bearing on federal policy. She was one of more than 24,300 voters in the state capital who gave 68 percent support to a referendum calling for the pullout.
"I thought this war was ill-advised from the moment it started," she said.
In addition to Madison, those communities supporting the measures included the Milwaukee suburbs of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay, and the western city of La Crosse. Those voting down the measure included the northwestern city of Hayward and the south-central city of Watertown, where 75 percent of voters disapproved.
Most of the referendums asked if the voters supported withdrawing the troops immediately, and Evansville also had one urging support of President Bush, which voters rejected.

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