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PR Watch: The Weekly Spin

The Weekly Spin features selected news summaries with links to further information about media, political spin and propaganda. It is emailed free each Wednesday to subscribers.



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1. Media Literacy, Alternative Media and More
2. PR Execs Held to Account for Overbilling City Accounts
3. Mamma Mia, Here I Sell Again
4. Pentagon Briefing Shows Guantanamo's 'Good' Side
5. Berman's Center for Union Smears Hits TV Screens
6. "Independent" Labor Report on McDonald's Puréed in Tomatoland
7. Hey, FOX - Google Much?
8. Embedded Reporters' Pronouns Aren't the Problem
9. Edelman Calls VNRs 'Interesting,' 'Newsworthy'
10. CEI's 'Crude' Attack on Global Warming Film
1.  Ex-Prez Rapped as Flack for Soda Jerks
12. Hill and Knowlton: Staring Down Consumer Advocates?



The 2006 Allied Media Conference, organized by Clamor magazine's Allied Media Projects and two Bowling Green State University departments, will be held in Bowling Green, Ohio, from June 23 to 25. The conference will include a symposium on media literacy, with presentations including "Democracy Needs Active Media Education," "A Careful Eye, a Good Ear: The Smartest Media Consumer Is a Good Media Producer," "Marketing, Minors and the Military," and "Reaching Kids: Youth-Driven Programming." For more information, see SOURCE: Allied Media Conference, May 24, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

2. PR EXECS HELD TO ACCOUNT FOR OVERBILLING CITY ACCOUNTS,1,3634663. story?coll=la-headlines-frontpage Douglas Dowie, the former head of Fleishman-Hillard's Los Angeles office, was convicted "of 15 counts of conspiracy and fraud in a scheme to overbill city taxpayers for public relations consulting services." His assistant and co-defendant was convicted on 12 related charges. At issue were contracts awarded by the city's Department of Water and Power, port and airport. The "combination of precise billing records and e-mails presented by prosecutors convinced jurors of the existence of the criminal enterprise," reports John Spano. Last year, the firm paid the city $6 million "to settle a civil lawsuit that alleged overbilling." The firm's Los Angeles general manager said that Fleishman-Hillard had taken "numerous steps to avoid the possibility of something like this ever occurring again." When the story first surfaced in 2004, the Public Relations Society of America reminded its members to "only charge for the work we do." SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

3. MAMMA MIA, HERE I SELL AGAIN search "No major corporation has embraced word-of-mouth marketing as aggressively" as Procter & Gamble, writes BusinessWeek, in a story about P&G's Vocalpoint. Vocalpoint is "a state-of-the-art method for reaching the most influential group of shoppers in America: moms." The program has enrolled 600,000 mothers with "large social networks" to pitch products. P&G provides Vocalpoint participants with "messages mothers will want to share," along with "samples, coupons, and a chance to share their own opinions with P&G." While the Word of Mouth Marketing Association supports full disclosure, P&G doesn't tell its stealth marketers to disclose their involvement with P&G. P&G's Steve Knox said, "We have a deeply held belief you don't tell the consumer what to say" (except for product pitches). The Federal Trade Commission "hasn't yet developed a disclosure policy" on word-of-mouth marketing, though it's expected to rule on a complaint that Consumer Alert filed against P&G's teen word-of-mouth program soon. SOURCE: BusinessWeek, May 29, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

It must be hard to put the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a positive light, following recent detainee suicide attempts and the United Nations Committee Against Torture's recommendation that the camp be closed, but that's what the Pentagon is trying to do. According to US News & World Report, "Officials from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Detainee Affairs Section have worked up a new briefing and made presentations in recent months to some 3,000 people, including media representatives and members of Congress, stressing the strategic value of detainees at the prison camp." The briefing touts the camp's "decent food, healthcare, and literacy training for the inmates. Notwithstanding allegations of psychological and physical torture, officials say the biggest threats faced by many detainees are ... frequent sports injuries on Gitmo basketball courts." The briefing also says many detainees "help in identifying current al Qaeda operatives and supporters and in revealing favored bomb-making techniques." SOURCE: US News & World Report, May 15, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

5. BERMAN'S CENTER FOR UNION SMEARS HITS TV SCREENS place The new industry-funded front group from lobbyist Rick Berman, the Center for Union Facts, has launched its first TV ad campaign. The 30-second spot, running on Fox News and local markets, has "actors posing as workers" saying "sarcastically what they 'love' about unions," like paying dues, union leaders' "fat-cat lifestyles," and discrimination against minorities. The ad campaign cost $3 million, which was raised "from companies, foundations and individuals that Mr. Berman won't identify." Another TV ad will be filmed in June. Labor and economics professor Harley Shaiken said the effort "to create an antiunion atmosphere" more generally, as opposed to business-funded ads against a particular union organizing drive or strike, "is a new wrinkle." Needless to say, an AFL-CIO spokesperson called the ad's accusations "unfounded and outrageous." SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), May 19, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

When does an independent advocacy group's work turn into corporate PR? The Connecticut-based Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA) finds itself right on the line. CREA recently announced partial results of a study of Florida tomato suppliers, crediting one McDonald's supplier with exceeding industry best practices, including pay sometimes higher than $18 an hour. But an analysis by Florida International University--endorsed by 30 national labor experts--says the CREA study is "so riddled with errors both large and small that it cannot be accepted as factually accurate on virtually any measure." CREA rushed the report into print while other studies of tomato suppliers are still pending (PDF). McDonald's promptly published the report's conclusions, but a few weeks later the web link disappeared. The report's release coincided with a campaign by the Coalition for Immokalee Workers calling on McDonald's to match Taco Bell's recent "penny-a-pound" pay increase to its suppliers' tomato workers. SOURCE: Center for Reflection, Education and Action, April 19, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

7. HEY, FOX - GOOGLE MUCH? s.php We appreciate News Hounds, the folks who "watch Fox so you don't have to." The website noted that "Fox News left out some crucial information in a report about the Washington premiere of Al Gore's film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth -- like the fact that think tanks critical of it were funded by oil companies and automakers, as well as the usual coterie of far-right bagmen. ... Reporter Mike Emanuel ... did not take the time to tell the viewer anything about either the Competitive Enterprise Institute or the National Center for Policy Analysis. If he really were reporting so that the viewer could decide, Emanuel might have noted these facts available from Sourcewatch," wrote News Hounds, going on to quote from the SourceWatch articles on each front group. SOURCE: News Hounds, May 18, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

8. EMBEDDED REPORTERS' PRONOUNS AREN'T THE PROBLEM A new Indiana University study concludes that "news reports by television reporters embedded with American troops in the early days of the Iraq War found little support for critics who question the journalists' objectivity." However, according to the study's abstract, the measure of objectivity was "the use of personal pronouns in embedded and nonembedded reports during CNN coverage of the 'Shock and Awe' campaign" and "the context in which personal pronouns were used by embedded reporters." While "there was more frequent use of personal pronouns by embedded reporters," the researchers judged the reports to be "void of personal values and ideologies." Whether embedded reporters were more or less likely to include the perspectives of Iraqis, United Nations officials, or war critics is not addressed. The media watchgroup FAIR has documented that U.S. television coverage of Iraq is "dominated by government and military officials." SOURCE: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

9. EDELMAN CALLS VNRS 'INTERESTING,' 'NEWSWORTHY' uT4SW1eaM_20060524.html?mod=blogs The Wall Street Journal interviewed Richard Edelman, the president of the major PR firm that bears his name. Edelman said, "There is room for video news releases and satellite media tours because, frankly, we provide interesting, newsworthy spokespeople with credibility. But ... they have to be identified, and I think it's the PR firm's job to make it clear about who the client is and that it's the media's job to post that." He added, "This is an era of total transparency. ... It's very subversive to credibility to have any other kind of structure." Edelman, a blogger himself, said blogging "is bridging, clearly into mainstream media." He feels "that public relations is going to grow faster than advertising or some of the other disciplines." Lastly, he noted that while most PR firms are part of large advertising conglomerates, "We see a real bright future for an independent company." SOURCE: Wall Street Journal (sub req'd), May 17, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

10. CEI'S 'CRUDE' ATTACK ON GLOBAL WARMING FILM The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) think tank, whose donors include Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, is running a television ad campaign "targeting global warming 'alarmists,' especially Al Gore." Reuters reports, "The spots are timed to precede next week's theatrical release of  An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film on global warming that features Gore." In one ad, "a little girl blows away dandelion fluff as an announcer says, 'Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution; we call it life.'" As Think Progress notes, CEI "believes the dangers of global warming are akin 'to that of "an alien invasion."'" SOURCE: Reuters, May 18, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

11.  EX-PREZ RAPPED AS FLACK FOR SODA JERKS The deal already looks suspiciously sweetened. On May 3, 2006, U.S. beverage firms announced an agreement with the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association gradually to pull most sweetened soft drinks from U.S. schools. Former President Bill Clinton led the press conference. But food policy expert Michele Simon says Clinton gave PR cover to the companies and coopted a more transparent public health-centered negotiation. Soda sales had already flattened. The beverage makers may have been looking to avoid a patchwork of state laws and to protect school vending machine slots for their other products--such as high calorie sports drinks, which were not part of the deal. Simon writes: "[T]his so-called agreement could undermine the massive public health effort currently underway in schools all across the nation." SOURCE: Informed Eating, May, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:

12. HILL AND KNOWLTON: STARING DOWN CONSUMER ADVOCATES? While even Wall Street was getting edgy about increasing reports of a fungal infection pointing to a Bausch and Lomb contact lens solution, the company's PR firm dryly glared at consumer advocates. "Bausch and Lomb has not yet recalled ANY of its products. Rather, its Renu MoistureLoc has been taken off the shelves. Who can I speak to about this inaccuracy?" asked Hill and Knowlton's Grace Healy in an email to On May 15, the company finally did "recall" MoistureLoc--permanently. The fungus infection has required corneal transplants in some contact lens solution users. Well before Hill and Knowlton's email, consumer watchdogs as far flung as Malaysia had criticized the company for inadequate response. "Other pharmaceutical companies facing potential problems have taken much more aggressive measures to alert their customers of the possible dangers," reports James R. Hood. Standard and Poors notes: "[T]he company's failure to be more proactive in recalling the product has created substantial potential liabilities." SOURCE:, May 5, 2006 For more information or to comment on this story, visit:


The Weekly Spin is compiled by staff and volunteers at the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a nonprofit public interest organization. To subscribe or unsubcribe, visit:

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