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[eccr] The Weekly Spin, March 30, 2005

Mon Apr 04 06:53:46 GMT 2005

>THE WEEKLY SPIN, March 30, 2005
>sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy
>To support our work now online visit:
>The Weekly Spin features selected news summaries with links to
>further information about media, political spin and propaganda.
>It is emailed free each Wednesday to subscribers.
>Who do you know who might want to receive Spin of the Week?
>Help us grow our subscriber list!  Just forward this message to
>people you know, encouraging them to sign up at this link:
>1. Fake News?  We Told You So, Ten Years Ago
>1. Sparks Fly Over Wal-Mart PR
>2. Television News: Now, Even Faker!
>3. Hospitals Seek Healthy Revenues
>4. California's Drug Wars
>5. A Reporter in Hand Is Worth Two in the Bush
>6. All the News That's Just Fed
>7. Opposition to Fake News Grows
>8. The U.S. Army Pitches Patriotism
>9. Their Middle Name Is Accountability
>10. You Don't Know Where that Meat Has Been
>11. BBC Pledges to Ditch Fake Military News
>by Sheldon Rampton
>   Recent reports about the Bush administration's use of fake video
>   news releases (VNRs) have helped highlight a problem that John
>   Stauber and I have been talking about for more than a decade. It's
>   nice to see the New York Times start to catch on and to see some
>   public activism starting to coalesce around the problem. I'd like to
>   point out, though, that the problem isn't limited to the Bush
>   administration or to government VNRs alone. In fact, corporate
>   public relations is the biggest single source of video news
>   releases, just as corporate PR is the biggest single source of other
>   types of PR that pollute the media ecosystem. (The McDonald's VNR at
>   right is a fairly typical example of the genre.)
>        Here's what John and I wrote in our 1995 book, Toxic Sludge Is
>   Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry:
>For the rest of this story, visit:
>   After Hill & Knowlton contacted community newspaper editors on
>   behalf of Wal-Mart Stores informing them "Wal-Mart representatives
>   were available for interviews," Mike Buffington, the president of
>   the National Newspaper Association (NMA), let fly. "So why is it
>   that community newspapers in America are good enough to help you
>   fend off critics with free PR, but weâ¬"re not good enough for your
>   paid advertising? You canâ¬"t have it both ways," Buffington wrote
>   to Wal-Mart. In a column in the NMA newsletter Publishers Auxiliary,
>   Buffington, who is also a publisher of community papers in Georgia,
>   complained that a side-effect of Wal-Mart undercutting local small
>   business was that "advertising dollars disappear from community
>   newspapers." The Business Ledger notes that Buffingtonâ¬"s comments
>   have attracted some criticism for implying "a â¬Üyou pay or we
>   donâ¬"t cover youâ¬" attitude."
>SOURCE: The Business Ledger, April 4, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "If viewers were confused before, they'll certainly have a hard time
>   discerning news updates from mini-informercials now," writes Joe
>   Mandese, on how Medialink Worldwide is "morphing" news and public
>   relations. Medialink "says 'branded journalism' is the best way to
>   advertise in a splintered market. Instead of sending out video news
>   releases in hopes that stations and cable networks will air them, PR
>   firms are actually creating the newscast, then buying spots on
>   networks the way a Madison Avenue (advertising) firm would."
>   Moreover, "secured VNR buys are much more cost-effective than
>   conventional ad buys," and have "built-in controls that unpaid PR
>   tactics lack, including the ability to target specific demographics
>   and to conduct a post-buy analysis of audience delivery."
>SOURCE: Broadcasting & Cable, March 28, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   A study of newspaper ads for 17 top university medical centers found
>   they "employ some of the same advertising techniques doctors often
>   criticize drug companies for -- concealing risks and playing on
>   fear, vanity and other emotions to attract patients." Of the 122 ads
>   examined, 62% used emotional appeals and one-third "used slogans
>   focusing on technology, fostering a misperception that high-tech
>   medicine is always better." Twenty-one ads promoted specific
>   services, including one proclaiming, "We do Botox!" Spokespeople for
>   some of the medical centers involved stressed advertising's
>   educational value and said review processes ensured their ads were
>   responsible. Hospitals began advertising 20 years ago, as managed
>   care increased competition among hospitals.
>SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (reg. req'd.), March 28, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   The industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
>   America has launched "its most aggressive counterattack," on a
>   proposed California ballot initiative to provide cheaper
>   prescription drugs to low-income residents. The industry has raised
>   "an unprecedented $8.6 million," even though the initiative does not
>   yet have "enough signatures to qualify it for the next election."
>   PhRMA's Jan Faiks called the initiative "a very bad precedent" that
>   poses "a serious threat to the health and welfare of the
>   pharmaceutical industry." PhRMA is also "threatening retaliatory
>   initiatives aimed at trial lawyers and unions," groups the industry
>   fears will support the initiative. One measure "would slash trial
>   lawyers' contingency fees," while another "would require public
>   employee unions to obtain members' permission before spending their
>   dues on political activities."
>SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   Florida freelance television reporter Mike Vasilinda's public
>   relations firm "has earned more than $100,000 over the past four
>   years through contracts with Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the Secretary
>   of State, the Department of Education and other government entities
>   that are routinely part of Vasilinda's stories," while those stories
>   aired on CNN and Florida NBC affiliates. Mike Vasilinda Productions
>   has also worked on political campaigns. Vasilinda rejected
>   comparisons to Armstrong Williams, "because he has not personally
>   promoted any government programs or appeared in any of the videos
>   his business produced." Journalism professor Bob Steele said the
>   arrangement "certainly raises some red flags."
>SOURCE: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 26, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   Why do local TV news stations use fake video news releases?
>   Political science professor Marion Just and Tom Rosenstiel of the
>   Project for Excellence in Journalism surveyed stations and found
>   that the audience for TV news is shrinking, while "the companies
>   that own these stations have generally continued to expect high
>   earnings, usually profit margins in excess of 40 percent. To meet
>   those demands, most stations have added programming, usually without
>   adding resources. ... From 1998 to 2002, a study of 33,911
>   television reports found, the percentage of 'feed' material from
>   third-party sources rose to 23 percent of all reports from 14
>   percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of stories that included a local
>   correspondent fell to 43 percent from 62 percent. ... So we don't
>   have to search far to discover why the Bush administration has
>   succeeded so well in getting its news releases on the air. The
>   public companies that own TV stations are so intent on increasing
>   their stock price and pleasing their shareholders that they are
>   squeezing the news out of the news business."
>SOURCE: New York Times, March 26, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   Jay Rosen posts "a unanimous resolution passed by the Boston
>   University Journalism Faculty and circulated to other J-Schools by
>   Bob Zelnick, the former ABC News correspondent" and self-described
>   conservative. The resolution condemns "the use of 'phony' reporters
>   hired by the government to perform in (video news releases) where
>   their affiliation with government is unstated," urges "the
>   Administration to identify and cease other practices with respect to
>   VNRs that run a substantial risk of misleading the public," and
>   condemns "the deliberate use by television news outlets of material
>   ... without clear identification of its origin." Zelnick says such
>   practices strike "at the core of journalistic integrity." Even PR
>   Week reported on the "Stop Fake News" petition drive launched by the
>   Center for Media and Democracy and Free Press, although one VNR
>   producer said "it would not have any long-term effect."
>SOURCE: PressThink, March 24, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "The Army expects to miss its recruiting goals this month and next,
>   and is working on a revised sales pitch appealing to the patriotism
>   of parents," according to Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. The
>   "patriotism to parents" pitch might be made "through a new
>   advertising campaign." Harvey "is also encouraging more members of
>   Congress, as well as senior Army leaders and Army boosters, to spend
>   time in local communities touting the benefits of military service."
>   In addition, the Army has boosted its number of recruiters by
>   one-third and is offering larger sign-up bonuses, while the National
>   Guard and Reserve raised the maximum recruit age from 34 to 39.
>SOURCE: Associated Press, March 24, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   The Government Accountability Office "said yesterday that they will
>   investigate whether the Department of Health and Human Services
>   violated that law by awarding a $21,500 contract to commentator and
>   marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher." The GAO is currently looking
>   into the legality of similar payments from the Department of
>   Education to pundit Armstrong Williams. Democratic Senator Frank
>   Lautenberg, who requested the GAO inquiry along with Senator
>   Kennedy, said "the Bush propaganda mill has violated the trust of
>   the American people."
>SOURCE: Washington Post, March 25, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   "The Meat Promotion Coalition has been formed in the office of
>   Washington's top agriculture (public affairs) / lobby firm, Lesher &
>   Russell," reports O'Dwyer's. Coalition members include Tyson Foods,
>   Hormel Foods, Cargill, the National Catttlemen's Beef Association,
>   National Pork Producers, American Meat Institute, National Meat
>   Association, and American Farm Bureau Federation. The coalition is
>   pushing for voluntary country-of-origin meat labeling, as opposed to
>   the mandatory labeling called for by federal agriculture law, now
>   slated to be implemented by 2006. Country-of-origin labeling, which
>   industry groups claim would be costly, has received increased
>   attention due to mad cow disease.
>SOURCE: O'Dwyer's PR Daily (reg. req'd.), March 23, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>   The Controller of Editorial Policy for the British Broadcasting
>   Corporation (BBC), Stephen Whittle, has written to David Miller from
>   the European PR watchdog group Spinwatch stating that the use of
>   audio news supplied by the British Forces Broadcasting Service
>   (BFBS), an agency funded by the UK Ministry of Defence, was "not
>   ideal." Miller  revealed the use of fake news by the BBC a little
>   over a week ago. In response to Miller pointing out that the use of
>   BFBS audio was a breach of BBC guidelines Whittle has pledged that
>   the use of such material "will not happen again."
>SOURCE: SpinWatch, March 24, 2005
>For more information or to comment on this story, visit:
>The Weekly Spin is compiled by staff and volunteers at the
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>PR Watch, Spin of the Day, the Weekly Spin and SourceWatch
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>organization that offers investigative reporting on the public
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Carpentier Nico (Phd)
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