The race for profits is undermining quality journalism, according to panelists at the annual conference of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). As publications cut spending and staffing levels in newsrooms, "Quick and cheap celebrity gossip, gruesome snippets on accidents and crimes, and fluffy features about cute pets usually drive out costly, complex reporting on politics and economics, creating the media equivalent of a sugary, junk-food diet," reports David Armstrong.
"A mall (development) war ... has heated up after one developer secretly launched a hard-hitting public relations strike against a competitor, warning that the rival's plan could lead to traffic gridlock and adult businesses. ... After The Cincinnati Enquirer obtained a plan that outlined part of the campaign, David Kass, Continental Retail Development's president, admitted Wednesday to unleashing it against (competitor) Steiner. But he said it was a legal effort similar to development campaigns elsewhere in the country. ... 'We're coming clean,' Mr.
Two weeks ago, Guardian columnist George Monbiot described how the Bivings Group, a PR company contracted to Monsanto, invented fake citizens to post messages on internet listservers. "These phantoms had launched a campaign to force Nature magazine to retract a paper it had published, alleging that native corn in Mexico had been contaminated with GM pollen," Monbiot writes in today's column. "But this, it now seems, is just one of hundreds of critical interventions with which PR companies hired by big business have secretly guided the biotech debate over the past few years. ...
The Food and Drug Administration has been leaderless since George W. Bush took office 16 months ago. The Boston Globe reports that Bush administration's latest pick for FDA commissioner, Dr. Alastair J. J. Wood, was derailed by the pharmaceutical industry.
Tobacco PR lobbyist Rick Berman runs a lucrative business smearing public interest groups through his industry-funded fronts such as ConsumerFreedom.com and Activistcash.com. Berman can dish it out, but apparently he can't take it, nor stand the truth. He is threatening to sue food safety activist Jeff Nelson of VegSource for revealing that Berman lines his own pockets from his "non-profit" enterprises. According to Nelson, "Berman claims he wants to 'expose' funding sources of non-profit activist organizations.
Much of the Internet stock boom was a fiction, "written to script by Wall Street fixers who stood to collect, and did collect, buckets of money by duping the investing public," says Gregg Wirth, a freelance writer who has covered Wall Street for most of the past decade. "Americans were deluged with media sound bites and commercials portraying stock market trading as a virtual free ride on the gravy train.
The Enron scandal and the declining stock market have left more people worried about the Bush administration's plan to convert Social Security funds into private investment accounts, so Republicans are using focus groups and pollsters to help them finesse the issue. "Key House Republicans now are moving toward declaring themselves against complete privatization -- a deliberate exaggeration of what Bush proposed -- so they can say in campaign ads they oppose the idea and perhaps even sue opponents who accuse them of it," report Mike Allen and Julie Eilperin.
Inspired by recent public revelations about pundits who took large consulting fees from Enron, Robert W. Hahn ponders the financial conflicts of interest that pervade the world of Washington think tanks (including his own outfit, the heavily corporate-funded American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies). Hahn's essay, "The False Promise of 'Full Disclosure'," combines some fairly frank admissions with rationalizations about the "impracticality" of full disclosure.