Monday, March 14, 2005

Bush, Clinton, and Pre-Packaged News

The Instapundit writes:

A LOT OF PEOPLE are noticing this story from the New York Times about prepackaged fake news from the Bush Administration. But if you read the whole thing, to coin a phrase, you come upon this passing acknowledgement:
The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts.

Funny, but I don't remember much of a stink about it when it happened during the Clinton Administration.

The Instapundit article goes on to point out that a big proportion of the news stories we see in the papers and on TV were written by trade, industry, union, consumer, and other interest groups for that very purpose, i.e., to further their own agenda. It has become, more or less, a standard way of communicating with the public for any interest group, and a big part of an editor's job at a news organization consists simply of wholesaleing these outside sources of copy.

A paper's "slant" is increasingly determined by which of these sources of copy that they are willing to use. Thus, the New York Times, say, is loath to use anything produced by the Administration but will lap up anything cranked out by the DNC or anyone else in their leftist orbit. A large proportion of the left wing organizations out there exist for no other reason than to produce and send out these "press releases" which are in fact prepackaged stories that reporters can make their own simply by inserting their by-line at the top.

For example, if you see a story about a defective product on the market that is harming people you can almost bet that the story was mostly written by the group of lawyers who want to put together a legal action. For another example, many of the stories you see about global warming and the environment are mostly written by environmentalist groups pushing this agenda.

Thus, the idea that the Administration somehow violated the principles of an "independent" press is laughable. A Jeff Gannon type reporter in passing stories on from the Administration would be doing nothing more or less than exactly what other reporters do all of the time.

Given this background, one is inclined to wonder just where it is that the New York Times gets all this concern about the sanctity of the press. Rather than ask why the Bush or Clinton administrations do this it might be more to the point to ask why it is that the Administration alone from all interested parties should have this avenue of communication closed to them.