Macro vision ... Americans get news and updates from two sources:
- "news" entities like the paper, magazines, television news, and their related websites
Only in the latter is it obvious that the viewing audience is being sold a product. In the former, it's absolutely still true, it's just less obvious.
As a journalist, I loved PRs who sent me interesting stories pitched at my interests and publication. Yes please - send them in. That didn't mean that I didn;t then do my job; speak to competitors, treat the pitch with a fair degree of scepticism, etc.
What's being described in the article is quite different - deliberate corruption of the editorial process.
Not giving details on HN but happy to send a bunch of email proving this if you're from a noteworthy publication.
The copy that a business would send us rarely made air. I know, because I was often the person who rewrote it.
Example: At a talk radio station I worked at a number of years ago, we received a press release from a person who was protesting John McCain's policies in a very particular way. It was very positive, and spoke of his mission, and blah blah blah. We had no clue who this guy was, but it tipped us off to a great story; we didn't cover it in the news portion of our broadcast, but the talking heads that evening had a very good time pointing out how ridiculous it was.
This is how news works. PR helps a producer by bringing their attention to something, because let's face it, omniscience is not a trait of local news producers. The producer might help PR with a bit of coverage, or very likely doesn't. (The fax machine at a local newsroom is hilarious to watch.) The angle that gets covered is occasionally not what PR wants. This relationship is push and pull.
However, having pre-written copy introduces vast amounts of bias by shifting how people are thinking about an issue. Thus, you can't rewrite it without first being influenced to think along similar lines. Now, one option is a simple firewall that prevents the person writing the story from reading original copy. More effort in the short term, but companies would have less incentive to try and shape the news for free press.
PS: Really, pink elephants, now where you thinking about elephants or did I suddenly change your thought process... It is possible to minimize bias, but failing to take obvious steps suggests they are not even trying.
As a PR I was initially astonished that my releases would be duplicated verbatim by journalists - and yet it happened, so I was clearly doing both my job and helping them out.
Sorry, I'm not clear what you are suggesting is unethical.
Paid for logistics for reporters? Paid for placement? Bribed? Care to clarify?
Quoting the article, "Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the [CIA] set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.".
This played in synergistically with the Congress for Cultural Freedom  which was another government organization acting like an independent organization, but was just a CIA propaganda tool. Anyhow, this stuff takes decades to be declassified. It should be interesting seeing things like what was happening behind the scenes to build up the Iraq war. The ironic thing is by the time that's declassified - probably in the 2040s - people will think that it happened so long ago that it's no longer relevant to their issues of the day. Of course it is, and will be -- perhaps even moreso than today. As the apparent desire for governments to gain ever greater control and ever greater power -- mingling with media (in the general sense -- not just news) in covert ways will be ever more part and parcel of our brave new world.
 - https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-...
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congress_for_Cultural_Freedom
If your government buddy in the State Dept. (who may himself just be a CIA agent) essentially does a lot of the "investigative work" on a major story for you by serving it on a platter, and there's an implied understanding that reporting against your buddy's narrative would end future help from the buddy, you're going to do write what he wants.
Among countless cases, some uncovered, some unknown: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/09/washington/09cuba.html
It's no new either:
And not just in news either:
that's a different poster.
> being "cozy", etc. is not so
it absolutely is... "access" is a form of currency, sometimes an extremely valued one.
the impact of access is such that the behavior of mainstream journalists can be manipulated toward one's preference through reducing or restricting it (or threatening to do so) - provided there is sufficient value in said access, of course.
Sort of similar to this as well  (very hard to search for 'government pays NY Times, Post WSJ' or 'Pentagon articles in newspaper' etc.... So many results that are not related in whatever search bubble google has me in
The closest thing to what you suggest (and it is not that close) is probably Judith Miller's Iraq reporting for the NY Times, but that's mostly down to her incompetence.
I disagree, or maybe Im just poor at searching but terms like "NY Times, government, paying, publish, stories, CIA" I get so much non-relevant search returns its impossible to separate the whet from the chafe. It was also many years ago, so Im sure search bubbles these days will tend to return stories that are newer as a default. The story I am remembering is definitely different from the one you recommended. I wish I could find it, it was a fascinating read at the time.
Not sure it's of major relevance right now, when Trump does stuff that is not the common wisdom of the FP crowd, but normal behaviour should resume sooner or later.
See "embedded war correspondents" from anything after Vietnam. Iraq 1 is probably still the war machine's most spectacular TV production.
We would create a Betacam tape of B-roll, have a written synopsis and other relevant details, and after cold-calling news editors (we had a book we purchased yearly with their contact info), we would FedEx them the package of content, and follow up w/ an additional call after delivery conformation.
It worked well. Although this was some time ago.
I happen to be familiar with the book publishing industry in my country, and I know that many journalists will publish an article on a book written by a publishing houses PR manager, just to save themselves the effort of writing an article themselves. And these are the biggest newspapers in the country.
If you have a synthetic diamond company or something (that's a fake example), you don't really need to bribe your way into the headlines. You can just provide a ready-made skeleton for an article about how lab diamonds are indistinguishable from natural diamonds, and spice it up with some stats about how they're a huge hit with millennials. You can even get your company into the story by providing a juicy quote, which will of course be sourced as "Joe Schmoe from LabDiamondsAreUs says..."
I've seen this operation happen from both ends, and it works eerily well. Harried writers are grateful for content that's easily converted into deadline-beating stories, and as long as the topic is relatively low-consequence they don't feel much need to cross-reference or seek dissenting voices.
Sometimes, it's just a press release, but with a bunch of prewritten social shares for me.
Here's an example, anonymized. I got this 2 weeks ago - https://pastebin.com/xwjiUhwS
Not egregious, in this case, but, pretty presumptive on the part of PR.
So papers and magazines need to fill pages, so that a they have a product and b hey get advertising revenue.
So pr is half about building a great relationship so you can get them to put in your 'good stuff', the easy sells, but them also having them be on your side to run your duff stuff - getting you in at the last minute or pushing a product that isn't all that. But generally the lunches and drinks and even holidays were about relationships and a small amount of 'gifting' - but at the end of the day the journalist can always turn you down. But then they might not fill all their pages. And that really is what they are paid to do.
But in terms of the freebies, it's just as you say - gig tickets, lunches, samples, goodie bags, holidays - but don't forget that most of these things will have you with the PR person, not alone - so not like you can take your partner etc. Though the gifts you usually can take home and keep. The paper/magazine aren't that interested in them.
> Disney’s behavior is not entirely abnormal; many entertainment journalists and critics have experienced some kind of retaliation in the past. Publishing a negative review can, in some cases, make it harder for an outlet or individual critic to get an interview or an invite to an advanced screening in the future.
I didn't, and seeing it presented like this is horrifying.
It really begs the questions do we even have a legitimate media, and not a mercenary media that kneels to the highest bidder.
The press has almost always been biased and truthy. Look at William Hearst. But it's still critical to our republic.
> “To be fair I was in the wrong, but it really hurt to see that relationship come undone from an outside attack,” he said. “It was a huge setback and I've learnt my lesson.”
Maybe the lesson was still setting in, though, because Chong then appeared to offer me a bribe of his own.
“Is there any way we can set up a partnership together to distribute content?” he asked, in the same email. “Happy to explore remuneration.”
This quote really stuck out to me.
"In the pay-per-page view model, every post is a conflict of interest."
Really frightening stuff.
Bearing that in mind, if you read, say, this article (currently at the top of BBC news 'capital' section), it ought to be fairly clear which institution was responsible for its existence:
(although the 'why' might take a bit more digging)
I've noticed that pointing out PR sources for stories submitted on Hacker News story comments tends to attract aggressive downvoting and flaggings though.
E.g., what products does X write about, who else does, do they cover the competition as well?
Being able to assess positive/negative coverage would be even better.
I have some thoughts in mind.
Was reading a story on how the media undermine itself with a bunch of examples, and even re-reading the article and knowing these are part of the story, my response is to click to block, or assume that I've reached the end of the article, when I see that stuff. It's just toxic.
Good piece though. Sean Blanda, "Medium, and The Reason You Can’t Stand the News Anymore", Jan 2017:
Entire programme (4h)
Difference is that startups by definition often lack the influence, status, and/or wherewithal to pay for coverage in anything other than cash.
In the early 1990s, "fake news" referred to the practice of packaging up VNR and AVR bundles, generally for local broadcast stations. These are Video and Audio News Releases, which are fully produced, including fake reporters, generally covering some corporate news. Sourcewatch has a good overview:
And several source articles:
Hamilton Holt's 1909 book, Commercialism and Journalism, tells the story of the incredible growth of the publishing industry, fueled by six factors, but to which Holt (a publisher himself) credited advertising for virtually all of it. And to which he had extreme and justified concerns. He quotes another journalist:
There is no such thing in America as an independent press. I am paid for keeping honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. If I should allow honest opinions to be printed in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation, like Othello's, would be gone. The business of a New York journalist is to distort the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the foot of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. We are the tools or vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. Our time, our talents, our lives, our possibilities, are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.
This from a lecture series at the University of California, Berkeley, on the Morals of Trade.
The (very long form) New York Times piece on Harvey Weinstein's abuse, and control, over Hollywood and the press, is another cautionary tale of power and its capacity to manipulate (and suppress) information.
"Nothing new" doesn't mean "horrible practice".
As an aside, there is a guy who is very popular on Medium. He made a course on how to be a more successful writer. One of the 'benefits' of his VIP version was that he would write an article about you and put it in Huffington Post or other similarly rated publications.
Enter lobbyists. Their pitch isn't that they're unbiased, or that they're going to give the hypothetical official a huge kickback, future job, or secret bag of cash under the table (this sometimes happens, which sucks, but is not inherent to the practice). Rather, the pitch is that, while they are biased, they will inform the official about a topic they wouldn't otherwise know--or even know they needed to know about! Consider an about-to-break scandal in a weapons manufacturer that has been manufacturing malfunctioning guns, or some other relatively obscure topic (e.g. something massively overshadowed in the officially staffed military-research department by, say, headline items like the F-35 fighter expenditures). A lobbyist for that weapons company visits an official's office and gives them a rundown on how that company works, why its practices are (supposedly) ethical, how the malfunctioning gun works, et cetera. Now, whoever is listening to this pitch (and many/most lobbyists aren't heard directly by the senator/official who runs an office) knows this lobbyist's bias, but they also know that this is valuable information, because the choice is between knowing nothing of an area and being, albeit biasedly, prepared for upcoming press-ambush questions or similar. This can also help direct in-staff research.
Now, is this harmful? It definitely can be. But just like the PR-provided "journalism" discussed in this article, it may also be the only way that some information, however biased, gets into print in the first place. Given that most people don't (or don't have time/resources/ability to) do independent primary-source research on anything that might be newsworthy, I'm not prepared to universally condemn this practice.
Aside: there are a few limited alternatives for USFG officials to get information from. The Congressional Research Service can prepare briefs for offices who don't have the staffs to research on their own, and there are many other similar options, but you still have to know what to ask for information about. Vested interests (lobbyists) are very good at filtering for relevance . . . to their own interests, which is sometimes better than nothing.
There's also no reason constituents, or groups thereof, can't request an appointment with an official's office to convey info, just like lobbyists. Lobbyists are often given preferential treatment in such situations because they're known to be useful and informative (though there are certainly plenty of cases where they're given that treatment because they're offering kickbacks and take advantage of corruption and/or greed on the part of the people they're meeting with). Again, I'm not defending lobbying in all, or perhaps even most of, its forms. But I do think that lobbying, or PR-provided news, are not inherently unethical practices.
EDIT: so many typos.
Consider the travel, fashion and car sections of the newspaper: do you think they are really funded by the paper? Back when I got a newspaper on mushed up trees we always chucked those sections in the bin when fetching the Sunday paper. The sport section is pretty much ads too.
So I assume that almost all the articles in "business" or "tech" are essentially placed. Some sites wear their allegiance on their sleeve, which sometimes, ironically, makes them more impartial (I consider Ads Technica an example -- their apple coverage is for and by apple enthusiasts, by and large, but on that basis, ironically, can be critical of apple).
Then again, even in mainline news, someone chooses what to report on, and really they aren't impartial.
Compare the reaction to current article with the reaction to this story from 2010:
That was one of the biggest stories from 2010, whereas this is a million times bigger and no one even cares.
PR reps write our news