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.
Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco who researches the lobbying and PR tricks of the tobacco industry, has just published two new papers on the topic in leading medical journals.
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. ...
"An NBC-owned talk show is offering marketers the chance to buy guest spots for their products and executives, further blurring the line between programming and advertising. The sponsored segments were included in about two dozen shows appearing during the 2001-02 season of the entertainment program "The Other Half," which is owned, produced and distributed by the NBC Enterprises division of NBC, part of General Electric. ...
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.
In exchange for money, some physicians have allowed pharmaceutical sales representatives into their examining rooms to meet with patients, review medical charts and recommend what medicines to prescribe. "And some of those salespeople tried to influence doctors to prescribe drugs for uses that were not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration," reports the New York Times. A lawsuit brought by Dr. David P.
When KENS-TV in San Antonio, Texas aired a glowing story about a "miracle wrinkle cream," it failed to mention that the product's sole distributor in San Antonio is Jennifer McCabe, an employee of the TV station who also happens to be engaged to the station's executive producer.
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.