"Paying Journalists for Favorable Coverage? Absolutely Not"

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Remember Victoria Clarke? The severe-looking former Pentagon P.R. gal with the Prisoner coats? Here's what she says about Pentagon-funded propaganda in Iraq:

"I'm for every bit of deception and trick if you're directing it toward the bad guys. That's a good and useful thing to be doing," said Clarke, now a media consultant. "But paying journalists for favorable coverage? Absolutely not."

Clarke says the revelations have undermined the goal of the overall mission: to create a free Iraq and free Iraqis. That can't happen if burgeoning Iraqi newspapers are seen as tools of the United States or anyone else.

"I understand the frustration of the military. They thought they weren't getting the kind of good press they deserved," Clarke said. "But that is short-term thinking. You might have a good story for one day, but you aren't going to instill in the society you're hoping to create the kind of independent values that you want."

Meanwhile, the Defense Dept. Inspector General has just ruled that Pentagon-funded publications such as the Clinton Administration-created Southeast European Times—where the financial arrangement is discoverable only by clicking on the word "Disclaimer" at the bottom of the site—do not violate American law.

Yet a top Pentagon official, chief spokesman Lawrence DiRita, said he was concerned that a Pentagon practice of hiring news reporters to advance a U.S. government agenda could draw criticism and that an ever larger military role in shaping public opinion overseas might have negative consequences. […]

"If somebody comes back to me and says there's nothing wrong with the Department of Defense paying journalists, I'll say, 'Even if there's nothing wrong, does it make sense?'" DiRita said.

Other opinions abound in both stories.

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  1. “the financial arrangement is discoverable only by clicking on the word “Disclaimer” at the bottom of the site”

    A great idea for any publication, including but not limited to Reason Online.

  2. Dave — I think you’ll find an “About” link at the top of Reason.com.

  3. Yeah, not seeing the “financial arrangements” link.

  4. Dave W.-

    Under the “About” link there’s a FAQ. It gives some info on finances. Not a lot, but it does say that money comes from a combo of subscriptions and donors, with only a little advertising. I know you probably want donor info, but if donors were named without their consent then they might avail themselves of the transparent legal system for a violation of their privacy.

  5. I want to know how much stem cell company stock Ron Bailey owns. Is that there?

  6. No info on Ron Bailey’s stock holdings.

    If you don’t feel comfortable reading a magazine without that info, you should probably cancel your subscription.

  7. Have you tried asking him?

  8. What fun is that, Matt? It avoids all the insinuation that can be made by the quick-thinking conspiracy theorist, while leaving open the possibility of actually getting an answer, which would ruin the whole thing!

  9. What was this thread about again?

    Lawn sprinklers or something?

  10. A nice clear screen detailing all the financial arrangements would be easier for me and more credible for Reason. It would really add some bona fides when you guys go after bad journalists — like, we didn’t have to do this, but we did because our readers are so darned smart that they really care.

  11. Dave W., do you subscribe?

    It’s a serious question. I think you’ll get more interest from them if you make these inquiries as a curious subscriber, rather than a known contrarian on the message board.

  12. “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.” – T. Jefferson.

    “Well, we didn’t hoax the media, we had boxes on our heads and we said we had them. You’re the idiots who put it in the newspaper!” – D. Barry

    Disclaimer: I own a 100% interest in my own stem cells.

  13. Dave — I’ll let the institution & magazinne speak on its/their own behalf, aside from noting that the type of individual who contributes money to the Reason Foundation is often the type of individual who is pretty serious about their personal privacy.

    In case it matters to anyone, I’ve never owned either stocks or bonds, though I hope to change that some day.

  14. Sorry for grammar-bad, and spelllings.

  15. One-Trick Pony: Before I can take any of your blog comments seriously, can you detail for me everyplace you get money from? ‘Kthxbye.

  16. I’m heavily leveraged in corn syrup, and thus spend my days sabotaging laboratories on college campuses where heroic scientists are trying to get to the bottom of the corn syrup/diabetes connection. Keep this in mind when you read my future posts.

  17. Who is Number 2?

  18. Should this thread ever wander back on-point, does anyone know whether (a) the Iraq media payments were for publication of anything counter-factual, or (b) whether those publications were aimed at hostile forces rather than the general Iraqi public? These seem important for evaluating the military’s intent and the likely effectiveness of the payments.

    From what (little) I’ve seen, the military wanted to draw more attention to true events that reflected well on it. But my data’s too scant to be really reliable.

  19. Shelby — One of my previous posts on the subject linked to an article that listed at least one example of a deliberate lie (I mean, aside from the small daily lie of portraying American-generated articles written by soldiers in Virginia as coming from Iraqi citizens). Do a quick H&R search on “propaganda,” and there should be four or five December links to long articles about it.

  20. Color me a skeptic on the very popular ‘follow the money’ method of story verification. The source of the money has nothing to do with the legitimacy of a story. I’m much more impressed with footnotes and specific citings that any curious reader can dig into.

  21. But, Jason, it’s so much easier to imagine that you’ve discredited someone because of the source of some of his funding than to actually confront the merits of his argument.

  22. You cannot hope to bribe or twist
    (Thank God!) the British Journalist.
    But seeing what the man will do
    Unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

    Humbert WOlfe

  23. Dave W wrote: “Yeah, not seeing the “financial arrangements” link.”

    His name points to a website but on that website I didn’t see any financial arrangements link. In fact I didn’t even see an About link.

    Hmmm…

  24. When a Time magazine rep openly rejects the idea of reporting anything positive because they are only looking for bad stuff, instead of reporting everything and letting the reader decide, you can understand the frustration.

  25. One form of journalistic transparency that Reason has both advocated and practiced is detailing who its editorial employees have voted for, and are planning to.

  26. Dave W.: You’re a suspicious one aren’t you? Well your inquiring mind wanted to know about my stem cell holdings. As it happens I have owned a tiny amount ofGeron stock since 1998. I just called my broker who tells me that I have made a grand total of $556 off that stock so far. If that makes you think my reporting on biotech is tainted, that’s your privilege. When someone says “follow the money” they really mean “follow substantial amounts of money.”

    BTW, you are a subscriber, aren’t you?

  27. OK, not to be in any way uncomplimentary to the Reason staff, but how dumb would a company have to be to spend any real sum of money to help fund a libertarian magazine? I mean, please. What possible return could they recoup from that?

  28. At least, in a sinister astroturfing advocacy sense. If it were one of those companies where the CEO wanted to spend money pursuing things other than filthy lucre, that would be more understandable.

  29. Dave — While we eagerly await your responses, I’ll make one other small argument in defense of Reason’s ethic of transparency: Name a similar publication that A) allows comments on its website, B) actually *reads* those comments, and C) responds forthrightly to at least some questions from readers who aren’t (as far as we know) subscribers.

    If you get a quicker turnaround asking any two reporters from any other publication via their comments board about their stock holdings, I’ll walk around D.C. for a week with an “I Heart the Executive Branch” T-shirt.

  30. I’ll walk around D.C. for a week with an “I Heart the Executive Branch” T-shirt.

    Hey, I’d pay for a picture of that! Oh, wait, did I just corrupt Matt’s pure journalistic motives? Dang, this is harder than I thought.

  31. A) allows comments on its website, B) actually *reads* those comments, and C) responds forthrightly to at least some questions from readers who aren’t (as far as we know) subscribers.

    I, for one, have always been extremely impressed by all three of these.
    Thanks for hanging with us rabble, guys! 🙂

  32. linguist…

    Not only do the editors read and respond to the comments from the common rabble.. they sometimes get kicked out of bars with them as well!

  33. Full disclosure: Unborn Angel receives all its financial and nutritional support from Pregnant Angel. Views expressed by Unborn Angel are not necessarily those of crimethink, though some troublemakers suspect a strong correlation.

  34. I, for one, have always been extremely impressed by all three of these.
    Thanks for hanging with us rabble, guys! 🙂

    Yeah, what linguist said. Thanks, Reason staff.

  35. I would just like to say that Victoria Clarke’s coat actually scorched my eyes. How many little petroleums had to die for that particular fashion choice?

  36. Victoria Clarke stole one of my coats!

  37. I also echo linguist. It’s awesome that you guys come here to hang out with us.

  38. Another form of transparency is that this blog gives us a little bit of a window into the writing process. I’ve noticed that blog posts sometimes turn into stories in the print edition. We get to see the writer’s initial thoughts on the story, we get to discuss it with the writer, and then we get to see the final product.

    Now, maybe it’s all a farce. Maybe they float a trial version of whatever spin the donor wants, and then polish it in response to our comments. You can’t falsify something like that. But it sure seems like this process gives us a window into the writers’ minds. And the more we learn about the writers, the easier it will be to notice if they suddenly change gears and start shilling.

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