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Project Censored releases 2010 top 25 “news that didn’t make the news”

Project Censored, a media research project from Sonoma State University in California every year puts out a list of “news that didn’t make the news.” They’ve just released their 2010 edition (see below). I hope lots of people will go out and get a copy for themselves and their local libraries because this is what journalism is all about. It is the flip side of govt transparency as more available govt information makes for better and more thorough journalism.

[Thanks for the tip Crooks and Liars!]

Pentagon imbeds defense contractors in media as “message force multipliers”

All governments manipulate the media to garner favorable news coverage and spin the flow of information to put their actions in a positive light. But in a story in Sunday’s NY Times (April 20, 2008) entitled “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand,” David Barstow describes a concerted effort by the Bush Administration who used ostensibly objective military analysts to spread propaganda and dupe the American public in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance in Iraq. It turns out that those “independent military experts” consisted of “more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants.”

Once again, John Stewart describes this event with wit so that we’ll laugh rather than scream. So I’ll let him have the last word. And he mentions a GAO report called “Combating Terrorism: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas” that you can now get your hands on via the Internet Archive.

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”…

…Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.

GAO: Some federal scientists feel hemmed in by policies

The General Accountability Office was recently asked to look into whether federal scientists were being muzzled into media silence. They produced the report:

Federal Research: Policies Guiding the Dissemination of Scientific Research from Selected Agencies Should Be Clarified and Better Communicated, GAO-07-653, May 17, 2007

Here is the abstract for your consideration (emphasis mine):

Researchers at federal agencies disseminate their research results through a variety of approaches, including scientific publications, presentations, press releases, and media interviews. Because of recent concerns about some federal researchers possibly being restricted from disseminating their research on controversial topics, GAO determined (1) the policies that guide the dissemination of federal research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); (2) how effectively these agencies have communicated their policies to researchers; and (3) the extent to which researchers have been restricted in disseminating their research. GAO conducted a survey of 1,811 researchers randomly selected at the three agencies, and had a 66 percent response rate.

Most of the NASA, NIST, and NOAA policies that guide the dissemination of federally funded research generally facilitate the dissemination process, but some do not. GAO found that overall NASA’s policies, including its recently revised media policy, are clear and should help facilitate dissemination regardless of the dissemination approach used. At NIST and NOAA, GAO found that the agencies’ policies for dissemination through publications and presentations were generally clear and should facilitate dissemination; but their policies for disseminating research through media interviews and press releases may hinder it. For example, because both NIST and NOAA are part of Commerce, researchers at these agencies must comply with department-level policies to disseminate their research results through media interviews or press releases, but Commerce’s policies are outdated and can prevent researchers from meeting media schedules. Moreover, requests by NOAA researchers to share their research via media interviews and press releases may be further hampered because these researchers must also comply with their own agency’s media interview and press release policies in addition to the Department of Commerce’s. NOAA officials told GAO that because its media interview and press release policies lack clarity, they have been inconsistently interpreted by NOAA public affairs officials. According to GAO’s survey, NASA, NIST, and NOAA have made efforts to communicate their dissemination policies to their research staff, but many researchers are not confident that they know how to comply with some of the policies. The agencies have communicated their dissemination policies through staff meetings, on agency Web sites, and in limited formal training. While 90 percent of researchers are confident that they understand the policies for publications, only about 65 percent are confident they understand their agency’s media interview and press release policies well enough to comply with them. Similarly, almost half of the researchers across the agencies are unsure whether their agency’s policy allows them to discuss their personal views on the policy implications of their research. Finally, only 25 percent of researchers across the agencies are aware of a process to follow to appeal denials of requests to disseminate their research. On the basis of responses to GAO’s survey, 6 percent–or about 200 researchers–across NASA, NIST, and NOAA had dissemination requests denied during the last 5 years. One of the most common reasons researchers mentioned for these denials was that the topic of the research was sensitive or restricted for security reasons; in some cases, no reason was given. Most researchers at these agencies believe that their agency is more supportive of dissemination of research through publications and presentations, than dissemination through the media. Most NIST and NOAA researchers believe that their agency consistently applies the dissemination policies for each route of dissemination, while more researchers at NASA believe the agency consistently applies its policies for publications than believe the agency consistently applies its policies for press releases and interviews.

The full report is available at the link above.