Manufacturing the News

In a move that is pretty unethical, even for a Republican, the Bush administration has taken to renewing a tactic of manufacturing news and sending it out to media outlets.

Earlier this year, actress Karen Ryan made a commercial that appeared to anyone that watched it as a news story, trying to pretty-up the Medicare drug benefit fiasco. Now, it looks like they’re trying to do it again, but this time for the so-called “No Child Left Behind” act, trying to gussie it up for the masses.

And just FYI – these ads are being paid with our tax dollars. Yes, OUR tax dollars.PUBLIC RELATIONS
Bush education ads eyed
By Ben Feller, Associated Press October 11, 2004

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has promoted its education law with a video that comes across as a news story but fails to make clear that the reporter involved was paid with taxpayer money.

The government used a similar approach this year in promoting the new Medicare law and drew a rebuke from the investigative arm of Congress, which found that the videos amounted to propaganda in violation of federal law.

The Education Department also has paid a private firm to provide rankings of newspaper coverage of the No Child Left Behind law, a centerpiece of the president’s domestic agenda. The criteria include whether stories say President Bush and the Republican Party are strong on education.

The video and ratings documents emerged through a Freedom of Information Act request by People for the American Way, a liberal group that contends the department is spending public money on a political agenda. The group sought details on a $700,000 contract Ketchum received in 2003 from the Education Department.

One service the company provided was a video news release geared for television stations. The video includes a news story that features Education Secretary Rod Paige and promotes tutoring now offered under law.

The story ends with the voice of a woman saying, ”In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting.”

It does not identify the government as the source of the report. It also fails to make clear the person purporting to be a reporter was someone hired for the promotional video.

Those are the same features — including the voice of Karen Ryan — that were prominent in videos the Health and Human Services Department used to promote the Medicare law and were judged covert propaganda by the Government Accountability Office in May.

The Education Department’s video uses ”the same exact mode of operation,” said Nancy Keenan, education policy director at People for the American Way. The video encourages students to take advantage of tutoring and says that families give the idea an ”A-plus.”

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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