Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Buying Journos, Censoring Watchdogs: Old Story--But No Less Wrong

Buying Journalists: A 70-Year Tradition of Dishonor and Corruption With all the news about Armstrong Williams and other paid lobbyists masquerading as pundits, it's important to note that this disgusting practice has been going on for years, both in industry and in government.

All the way back to 1936 and 1937, Hill & Knowlton was paying journalists to write favorable stories for its steel-industry clients, as chronicled in the new book, The Voice of Business: Hill & Knowlton and Postwar Public Relations, by Karen S. Miller (The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, 1999), and reported by Eveline Lubbers of Spinwatch.

She writes:
Hill and Knowlton sponsored antiunion messages appearing in the news media. George Sokolsky, a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune and periodicals such as the Atlantic Monthly received $28,599 from H&K from June 1936 to February 1938, chiefly for consultation to the American Iron and Steel Institute. When writing against the steelworkers union, his articles failed to mention his connection to H&K or the Institute.
A decade later, the New York Times on a Pulitzer for its post-Hiroshima reportage--a series of articles lauding the nuclear program, written by William Laurence.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, along with her brother David, are calling for the Times to be stripped of its Pulitzer, because...
It turns out that William L. Laurence was not only receiving a salary from The New York Times. He was also on the payroll of the War Department. In March 1945, General Leslie Groves had held a secret meeting at The New York Times with Laurence to offer him a job writing press releases for the Manhattan Project, the U.S. program to develop atomic weapons. The intent, according to the Times, was "to explain the intricacies of the atomic bomb's operating principles in laymen's language." Laurence also helped write statements on the bomb for President Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson.
(And for those who might accuse me of an anti-GOP bias, please note that this was during the Democratic administration of Harry Truman.)

Censors as Well as Spinners

Meanwhile, another disturbing trend: government policy wonks are inviting large corporate interests--or bureaucrats who came through the revolving door and used to work for the industries they're supposed to regulate--to edit repots before they're made public. We saw this in the widely-reported story about White House staffer Philip Cooney editing out "negative" references (i.e., those that gave credence to the idea that global warming is a serious problem).

Turns out similar things are going on at the international level, in a climate change report prepared for the G8 summit that not only removed unfavorable references but presented nuclear power (the worst energy generation system ever invented, IMHO) as the shining knight of sustainability. Eeeeew!

But wait--there's more! Can you believe that Andrew Gallagher, the spokesperson for West Virginia's Environmental Protection department, had to run a press release on DuPont's toxic emissions by the company first? And that he first softened the statement and then withdrew it entirely as a result? And that it was official state policy to give DuPont a shot at all such materials before their release?

And let's not forget the US Department of Labor's blatant attempt to help push through the CAFTA agreement by censoring its own contractor's report on working conditions in Central America.

Do we have a problem with foxes in the henhouse, or what?

Note: I discovered all these stories reading one of my favorite blogs, "The Weekly Spin."
I especially like it because it's available in e-mail form. Sign up or read on line at


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