The Daily Kos recently uncovered an astroturf (fake grassroots) initiative by the George W. Bush campaign, which generated ghostwritten letters to the editor that found their way into at least 60 newspapers. This isn't the first time that the Bush administration has tried this trick, as we've reported in the past. According to Editor and Publisher, however, the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW) is now taking the issue seriously. "On its NCEW e-mail listserv, some 600 subscribers who are mostly editorial page writers and editors, can alert one another of suspicious letters," writes Charles Geraci. "In fact, this is the most consistent topic on the listserv." Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk critiques the Washington Post's coverage of the topic, showing how an "obsession with 'even-handedness'" led the Post to falsely claim that the Kerry campaign is doing the same thing.
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