Saturday, December 17, 2005

Quit calling it 'a mistake.' Call paying to fix the news GOP policy.

How can you tell the difference between 'an aberration' and a serious problem?

How about when it keeps happening.

We have seen over the past five years, an ongoing stream of scandals, all related to manipulation of the news by planting or creating it. First, there was the revelation that a 'local news' segment on an anti-drug program by a reporter named Mike Morris that aired just before the Super Bowl was just the most visible example of literally hundreds of fake, prepackaged 'local news' segments that had been put together by the White House public relations department and distributed to local stations coast to coast.

Then, we had the Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals-- in which conservative commentators had been paid with taxpayer funds to promote specific White House policies on their shows or in columns.

After that, there was the local newspaper scandal, in which hundreds of identical letters were mass mailed (with local addresses) to editorial boards of newspapers all over the country. That scam was picked up on by an editor in Tacoma when they made a rare mistake and sent him two copies of the same letter, under different names.

Then, we had Gannon/Guckert-gate, in which an amateur conservative commentator who no one had heard of before and whose online 'news service' was only created the day before, was given a much sought after White House press pass ahead of reporters who had literally been in line for years, and used it to ask softball questions (he would be called on every press conference) that were mostly designed to smear Democrats and make the President look good. His running a gay prostitution ring out of the White House came extra, at no charge.

Last week, we had the revelation that this has now gone international, with the revelation that the White House has been paying Iraqi news papers to run stories written by the Pentagon.

So today, we see yet another example, courtesy of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is swiftly becoming radioactive in Washington. Turns out that Abramoff paid conservative commentator Doug Bandow to write articles friendly to Abramoff's clients and supporters.

WASHINGTON - A conservative commentator paid by ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing newspaper columns that aligned with Abramoff’s interests has had his column suspended, the Copley News Service said Friday.

“We are suspending Doug Bandow’s column immediately,” Copley editor and vice president Glenda Winders said in a statement. “It has never been our policy to distribute work paid for by third parties whose role is not disclosed by the columnist.”

Bandow also has resigned from the libertarian Cato Institute, where he held a senior fellowship, a think tank spokesman said.

The hazard of this kind of thing should be obvious. But just in case any conservatives are too dense to figure it out, here it is in English:

Journalists are supposed to be independent professionals. Having and writing about an opinion or viewpoint is fine, and there are conservative and liberal commentators who do that. And being paid for your work is fine, so long as it is by someone who you have disclosed your agreement with and it is spelled out in your contract (these journalists all do have an employer, after all).

But when you take a payment from someone who you either may need to write about, or who you would not have otherwise written about, or to to otherwise compromise the professional job you do, then it is compromising your professional integrity. It would be no different than if, for example, a hiring director accepted a payment to put someone's resume at the top of the pile, or if an emergency room doctor accepted a payment to see someone who came in the door with a less than urgent problem ahead of people who had been waiting longer in the waiting room. It is like paying a police officer to not give you a ticket.

True, the other resumes will get looked at, and sooner or later the other people in the emergency room will be seen, and no one will be the wiser for the fixed ticket but if the cop has a quota then someone else will get the ticket, but by taking the payment, the professional in question benefits one person in particular to the detriment of everyone else.

And, if in the first example, the person gets hired because their resume is at the top, then there is someone else who does not (and as we all know, press coverage is a finite resource, so if you get one minute on the news or are the beneficiary of a weekly column, then someone else is not).

To compromise the professionalism of a reporter solely for the purpose of getting your propaganda published or on the air as 'news' is disgusting. And beyond that, there is a word which describes what it is:



Anonymous said...

I will be honest, I did not finish reading this post. You kinda lost me at "Democratic proposal for Universal Heathcare in 1994"
Do you mean Hillary Care? Thats a good one.
Im actually beginning to like you guys, being a crabbity ole Conservative, as you well know I dont laugh often as I am too busy oppressing the poor, minorities, children, and women. You bring a smile to face. Thanks CFARA, Im gonna nominate you guys for best Humor blog. Keep up the good work.

Eli Blake said...

Clearly you didn't. Your comment is under a post on media manipulation, which has nothing to do with healthcare.

Rhino-itall said...

Hey donkey, don't you also oppress the homosexuals? what kind of a conservative doesn't hate gays? i think you've been living in nyc for too long. if you want to keep your membership you will report immediately to some state south of the mason dixon line, and you will wear a hunting vest!