Is there "good" fake news?

On February 2 and 3, some 180 people attended the True Spin Conference in Denver, Colorado, billed as "a PR conference for progressives." The event was organized by Jason Salzman, who runs Cause Communications, a small Denver PR firm. At the conference, Diane Farsetta from the Madison-based PR Watch, insisted that progressives should not use video or audio news releases, unless they are labeled. Of course TV and radio stations desire these releases because they use them as "real" news. Farsetta says we must do better than just emulate the right's successful, but underhanded PR tactics. It's an interesting topic. Here's Farsetta's take:


In my presentation, I cautioned against progressive groups trying to replicate the U.S. political right's approach to communications (which David Brock detailed in "The Republican Noise Machine" and CMD's John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton addressed in "Banana Republicans"). While effective in the short term, many of these tactics undermine the integrity of news media and the quality of public debates -- both of which are integral to achieving progressive social change.

After describing recent examples of obviously deceptive tactics -- PR firms engaging in pay for play, creating "astroturf" groups, undermining legitimate opposition, and otherwise giving misleading impressions of their (usually corporate) clients -- I turned to fake news. Unfortunately, more progressive groups seem to be using audio news releases (ANRs) and video news releases (VNRs). For example, the U.S. Green Party issued several VNRs in response to Bush's State of the Union address this year.

According to academic studies, industry monitoring, and anecdotes from media personnel -- in fact, according to all accounts, with the exception of PR executives' Senate testimony -- television newsrooms airing VNRs rarely disclose their source to news audiences. I explained that, in order to honor the public's right to know where its "news" really comes from, CMD calls for mandated disclosure of all broadcast material provided by third parties.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.