I was invited to an event yesterday that was held specifically so that media companies can take money from companies who will pay for the chance to be mistaken for an expert.
The headline of a recent article posted at the website of the Atlantic–"David Miscavige Leads Scientology to Milestone Year"–probably tipped readers that something was more than a little off. It wasn't an article, really; above the headline, in a yellow box, was the phrase "Sponsor Content." But is what the Atlantic did–and quickly apologized for–really unusual?
The L.A. Times (11/6/12) reports that following the election, the Federal Communications Commission appears likely to ease cross-ownership rules–because supposedly nobody cares about that stuff anymore. The article by reporter Jim Puzzanghera tries to work up sympathy for media moguls: Paul Boyle, senior vice president for public policy at the Newspaper Association of America, said the rules make it difficult for investors who have as little as a 5 percent ownership in a broadcast company to buy a newspaper in the same market. Pity the poor billionaire who owns a mere 5 percent of Disney or Time Warner–and still they're […]
NPR's Tom Gjelten had a story on Morning Edition today (10/25/12) that made an important point about a prominent fallacy in the energy debate–and then spent the second half of the story falling into the exact same fallacy. The story questioned the constant use of the phrase "energy independence" in political discussions of U.S. energy policy. Gjelten noted: In truth, it would be virtually impossible for any country to be totally independent where energy is concerned. Not only would it have to produce all its own oil; it would also have to be independent of the global economy. Like sugar, […]
The Obama campaign has released a new ad criticizing Mitt Romney for having a Swiss bank account and wanting to keep tax breaks for corporations that offshore jobs. The commercial's most devastating line: Romney once railed against the deadly pollution from a coal plant. I know what you're thinking: Totally racist, right? That's sort of the point of Karen Tumulty's piece today in the Washington Post (10/23/12). Under the headline "Obama's 'Not One of Us' Attack on Romney Echoes Racial Code," Tumulty uses complaints from right-wing bloggers to lead a discussion about the commercial, which she says "echoes a slogan […]
Back in May, Facebook introduced its Promoted Posts program, giving groups and companies with pages on the social media site the option of paying to get their posts seen by more of their fans. The way Facebook works is that you don't see every post by every friend or every page that you like–Facebook has a formula called Edgerank that tries to determine how interested you'd be in that post, based mainly on how much you've "liked," shared or commented upon similar posts in the past, and how many people are liking, sharing and commenting on that particular post. At […]
When it comes to journalists socializing and otherwise cozying up to the powerful, there's not a lot new under the sun. More than 20 years ago, then-FAIR associates Martin Lee and Norman Solomon wrote about it in their book Unreliable Sources: TV's top journalists are part of the wealthy and influential elite, often socializing with people they're supposed to be scrutinizing. At an awards banquet for the Radio & Television Correspondents Association during Reagan's second term, Kathleen Sullivan (at the time with ABC) was photographed on the arm of then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, while CBS Face the Nation host Lesley Stahl […]
Even if you're not be an expert in media ethics, you'd probably agree that a show about finance and business exclusively sponsored by one giant bank has an obvious conflict. The fact that the show is on public radio might make such an arrangement all the more curious. And the fact that the host of the show also makes money giving speeches to the financial institutions he covers…. Well, now, that's not how things are supposed to work. But that's precisely how things work for Adam Davidson, the host of NPR's Planet Money. His program's exclusive underwriter is Ally Bank, […]
Thomas Byrne Edsall on the New York Times' Campaign Stops blog (7/23/12) accuses Barack Obama of "the politics of anything goes." His evidence: The Obama campaign is running ads attempting to persuade voters not to vote for Mitt Romney. The logic here is sort of hard to follow. First Edsall quotes Obama telling "those who are preparing to divide us" in 2008 that "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America." Then he points out that Obama's 2012 campaign (like, undoubtedly, his 2008 campaign) identifies various demographic groups for messaging. I know, shocking. […]
A new survey from the Radio Television Digital News Association reveals that we're getting more local TV news: For the fourth year in a row, the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey found that the average television station set a new record for the amount of local news aired. Over those last four years, the average amount of weekday news has gone from 4:36 to 5:00 to 5:18 last year. This year, it's up another 12 minutes to five-and-a-half hours per weekday. Of course, the distinction between quantity and quality matters a great deal. Local television news rarely distinguishes itself when […]
This is the sort of awkward juxtaposition that newspapers usually try to avoid. In today's Washington Post (7/9/12), a story about the Keystone pipeline appears above a Chevron ad: Awkward. Then again, maybe not. Juliet Eilperin's article is all about what supporters of the pipeline project in the state of Montana are saying. Politicians, academics and labor leaders are all behind the project. One critic–a farmer–is heard from ("Not everyone in Montana has embraced the pipeline…"), but she says she'd support the pipeline if it was exclusively for the benefit of a local oil field. Is Keystone really the kind […]
On Tuesday (6/5/12), ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer introduced a news segment: Michelle Obama appeared today with the CEO of our parent company, Disney, because Disney decided to do something historic to help fight childhood obesity and called in the big guns to do it, including a very, very famous mouse. The "historic" move: Food ads during ABC's children's programming will now have to meet what correspondent Reena Ninan called "strict nutritional standards." Ninan also touted Disney's earlier decision to phase out trans fats from its theme parks and offer "healthier options." ("They say they saw real results. […]