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« California Regulators to Mobile Customers: Tough Luck | Main | Open Thread »

January 28, 2005



What if... what if journalists took an oath of sorts. I don't mean something like the Hippocratic Oath, I mean that they could voluntarily agree to a certain set of standards.

So you could look up a writer (say, you or me or whomever) to see if he or she has agreed to those standards.

That wouldn't prevent outright liars like Jayson Blair, but it might prevent "bought" journalists who say things like "I never told them I took money from the Bush administration, but they never asked" or somesuch.

I know it's pie-in-the-sky, but it might be a first step.


Andrew, the problem is that the standards for "journalism" only apply on the news pages; it seems the editorial pages are still the Wild West - if there are accepted standards there, they're not made explicit, or enforced with any rigor, AFAICT.

See Chris Mooney from last spring on the corruption of op-ed pages.
As he said back in May -
"When are these op-ed pages going to wise up and avoid such embarrassments in the first place?.... I'm absolutely sure there are many other examples."
(he was talking about industry-funded Op-Ed payola, but the same principles apply.)


What will be interesting to see is how Republicans will spin their opposition in an attempt to plausibly couch their position in a palatable manner.

I can't bend my mind that way, though.

Frankke Potential

It is well nigh time to end the recycling of public monies paid to union organizers, environmental activists, legal aid and civil rights groups, back into activism that spans public relations, lobbying, media and litigation designed to influence legislation.

The most outrageous funneling of government money to media is a phenonenom of the deeply partisan Left. This recent wave of accusation and innuendo against conservative media personalities is about to crack the foundations of Democratic Party politics.


There is nothing new under the Sun. In 1916 Democratic President Woodrow Wilson tried to propagandize the public into greater support for what would be WWI. Congress convened the "Creel Commission" , a citizen committee, headed by Arthur Paige of AT&T.

There is a law preventing the federal government from propagandizing already.


There is nothing new under the Sun. In 1916 Democratic President Woodrow Wilson tried to propagandize the public into greater support for what would be WWI. Congress convened the "Creel Commission" , a citizen committee, headed by Arthur Paige of AT&T.

There is a law preventing the federal government from propagandizing already.


I don't see anyone going to jail, so obviously it isn't illegal enough.


Should this new law cover certain grant monies that are used to advance certain ideas? ...Like all of the grant money from the EPA for global warming? How much has the gov't spent on things like this? And isn't it a dirtly little secret that these researchers keep writing for grant monies about things like global warming? In other words, it "pays" to keep global warming alive. I'm sure there are other examples and I'm sure there are valid grants - we just can't tell what's legit.

While I don't like the government's lack of transparency here (paying talk radio-heads without us knowing it), I think there are all sorts of government advocacy programs that should be defunded or, at least, they should explain the source and intent of the money.

So it really will be telling to see how the left deals with this: will they just go after Bush or will they use this episode to go after the rest? It's pretty easy to tell which way it will go.


It also just as important to ban all outside public relations funding. The bushies are pouring tons of money into connected flacks. It's a great way to grease the skids for all sorts of garbage. If they had to add government employees to do this, there would be all sorts of hell for it. There's no real accounting for this PR money, it's just more pinstripe patronage.

Robert C Worstell

The problem is that the press (both in their "news" and op-ed sections) have been corrupted for years. Only recently have the blogs forced them to examine their own credibility.

More laws make for more complexity. Look how the much-acclaimed McCain-Feingold act was supposed to clean up political campaigns: made them even worse.

You can't legislate morality or right action. The papers will have to do this themselves. Note that the blogs cover these Williams/Gallagher actions more than the papers or newsmedia. Community is the real power. Laws only reflect community mores and as such are static, loophole ridden, and subject to rapid extinction - especially in our fast-moving Information Age.

Jozef Imrich

Ach, Romenesko brings together a stream of stories about cash for comment in ink:

Mike McManus, who writes a weekly column syndicated in 30 to 40 newspapers, was paid about $4,000 by the Department of Health and Human Services to train marriage mentors in 2003 and 2004. Since the consulting deals began in January 2003, McManus has touted Bush's marriage initiative in several of his columns, note Jim Drinkard and Mark Memmott. Salon's Eric Boehlert, who broke the story, writes: McManus championed the plan in his columns without disclosing to readers he was being paid to help it succeed.


There is nothing wrong with the government supporting whatever issue they decide is important. Thus, global warming, as mentioned above, can have reports released from many forums in the government.

What is wrong, and should be grounds for firing on the first offense, is the underwriting of goverment information, or propaganda, posing as legitimate news sources.

And newspaper publishers should be exposed for doing so. And readers should cancel their subscriptions when they see what they're doing. Nothing scares them more than declining readership over any specific issue - especially when they know they're betraying their mandate to be a forum for open discussion.

Television news is so immersed in deciving the public already with phony reports coming from PR firms they're almost cause already.

What amazes me the most is that journalists sit back and let it happen. Darts and Laurels is great in Columbia Journalism Review. But there needs to be an online forum where journalists can post anonymously specific violations they are seeing, or being forced to participate in by their employers.

Newspapers are run by people who know that owning a newspaper is like having a license to print money. Business people are the decision-makers, not journalists. They cut staff to the point that they can't possibly cover the news adequately, they kiss up to conservative (85 percent of all new media is owned by conservative republicans) interests and businesses. And they don't put the lie to the "media is liberal" skreed because that misinformation, in the end, serves their goals.


This morning I was (partially) watching the ehad of the Small Business Administration being interviewed. He was very clear in that he is an advocate for small business and he is advancing the President's agenda. The SBA probably hosts conferences, seminars and advertises. Is this wrong too?

Alice Marshall

If Senator Hagel runs for President, you can be very sure his rivals will get interested in verified voting.


Kennedy's reaction to Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher is a classic "There oughta be a law" reaction of the kind that misses the point. I sure don't want the government policing the press!

Making unethical activities within a profession illegal is nonsense, particularly when there are as many grey areas as in journalism. What proportion of the people will see a difference between a columnist being paid to endorse an program and their favorite athlete (or former presidential candidate) endorsing Viagra? The industry, like the ABA and AMA, is incapable of policing itself. In the final analysis, only the public can do that. It falls to the marketplace to use competition and public reaction to punish those who offend our sense of propriety.


The real problem will be, some congressman somewhere will attach additional legislation to this that will give congress a reason to vote against it. This is one of the biggest flaws in our current form of government. I can be totally in favor of stopping Government payments to journalists, but when they attach an additional $25 billion funding for research to see if mice can smell good fruit from bad, someone is bound to vote against it because of the friviolous rider. It may be unrealistic to get to a point of one vote, one issue. But at least keep the issues on the bills related. There's no reason that a bill providing free milk to underprivilleged school kids should be associated with making semi automatic rifles street legal. Until that goes away congressmen are going to have to kill good bills to prevent the bad ones from going along for the ride.

Robert Andrews

I could barely believe this when I read it on CBS News a couple of days ago.

Government paying journalists to write to a particular policy line? What kind of politics is that? What kind of freedom and democracy? That's positively Soviet.

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