Oct
02
2012

Facebook Is Losing Your Mail in Hopes of Receiving More Bribes

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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 […]

Sep
05
2012

Politicians in Tampa, Charlotte Massaged by Media—Literally

Huffington Post Oasis

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 […]

Aug
17
2012

At NPR, You Can Take Money From Banks–Just Don't Protest Them

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, […]

Jul
24
2012

Obama Stoops to Convincing Voters Not to Support the Other Guy

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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. […]

Jul
19
2012

Local TV News–Now With Ice Cream!

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 […]

Jul
09
2012

Keystone Pipeline: When Industry Ads and Industry-Friendly Coverage Collide

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 […]

Jun
07
2012

Disney Makes the World a Better Place, Reports Disney's Network

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. […]

May
23
2012

Karl Rove's Ad 'Deeply Researched'–Says NYT

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters (5/22/12) covers the new attack ad being released by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS group. Under the (somewhat funny) headline "Subtler Entry from Masters of Attack Ads," Peters makes it sound like this is something of a scoop, and certainly a pretty big deal: When it makes its debut Wednesday in 10 swing states as the centerpiece of a $25 million campaign, it is expected to become one of the most heavily broadcast political commercials of this phase of the general election. So what do Times readers learn? We get the inside scoop on the […]

Apr
11
2012

Winners of the 2012 Election Revealed

Forget the polls and the horserace for a second. In this election season, the big winners will be big media. As most people should know–but media don't tell you very often–much of the money that flows into and around the campaigns is used to buy advertising. Which means that television and radio stations make a lot of money during the campaign season. There are attempts to shine a light on this arrangement–such as the effort to make TV stations post advertising data online (something that–surprise, surprise!–TV stations don't care for). That's what made this exchange on public television's Nightly Business […]

Mar
23
2012

The New Campaign to 'Silence' Rush Limbaugh

Conservative talker Rush Limbaugh used to tell his listeners that the government was trying to silence him, based on a completely bogus tale about what the Fairness Doctrine would do. This time around, it's an ad campaign by the liberal group Media Matters for America directed at some of the stations that air Limbaugh's show. The group is encouraging citizens to contact stations and let them know they object to Limbaugh's degrading, sexist comments about Sandra Fluke. So what's the controversy? Fox News host Bill O'Reilly thundered (3/22/12) that "the far-left is a primary source of censorship in America." He […]

Jan
24
2012

Mother's Health News, Brought to You by Carcinogenic Baby Shampoo

Arianna Huffington had an announcement (1/19/12) about a new section in her Huffington Post: I'm delighted to announce the launch of Global Motherhood, a new section within HuffPost Impact dedicated to the health and well being of mothers and babies around the world, and sponsored by Johnson & Johnson. It goes without saying that it's a bad idea in general to have a corporation in the health industry sponsoring health coverage; the potential for conflict of interest is obvious. But given that these kinds of special sections are typically created to meet an advertiser's need–an impression strengthened by the fact […]

Dec
14
2011

A New Lowe in Advertiser Cowardice

The national hardware chain Lowe's pulled its advertising from the TLC reality show All-American Muslim–explaining that the question of whether Muslims can be presented as regular human beings is a "hotly contested debate." All-American Muslim is a reality show described by TLC, the cable channel that airs it, as "a look at life in Dearborn, Michigan–home to the largest mosque in the United States–through the lens of five Muslim American families…an intimate look at the customs and celebrations, misconceptions and conflicts these families face outside and within their own community." But the Florida Family Association, a right-wing group leading the […]

Dec
09
2011

Why Is PBS Telling Us That Profit Is Journalism's Friend?

PBS has a website called MediaShift, billed as "Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution." Based on an alarming post this week headlined "Tear Down the Wall Between Business and Editorial!" (12/7/11), the revolution looks rather revolting. The piece is written by Dorian Benkoil, who "handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site"–a job description that suggests that PBS has already torn down the wall between business and editorial, since those responsibilities would seem to put you in a constant position of conflict of interest. (He earlier worked as "a liaison between the […]