USA Today: Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law. Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
Given this administration's fondness for fiscal recklessness, war-inducing lies, torture, attacks on civil-liberties and other misdeeds, these seem like minor matters. But the Bush White House's contempt for honest journalism is really something to behold. Worse, it's clear that the adminstration honchos believe the public doesn't care -- and that officials consider professional journalists to be utterly helpless in making anyone care.
Washington Post: Drug Control Office Faulted For Issuing Fake News Tapes. Shortly before last year's Super Bowl, local news stations across the country aired a story by Mike Morris describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse. What viewers did not know was that Morris is not a journalist and his "report" was produced by the government, actions that constituted illegal "covert propaganda," according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.
Williams' previously undisclosed money-grubbing is pathetic, and worse. The National Association of Black Journalists has condemned his actions, and at least one news syndicate is dumping him (Poynter Online).
But keep in mind that news organizations, as opposed to individual "journalists," have taken equally sleazy money from the government in the past. As Salon reported in 2000, "At least six major U.S. magazines have submitted anti-drug articles they have published over the past year to the government's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in an attempt to qualify for thousands of dollars of financial credits under the same federal advertising program that has benefited the television networks."
In an age when TV news networks shill for the White House, I suppose we shouldn't be entirely surprised by any of this stuff. But it's pretty depressing nonetheless.