PR - Crisis and Management

Sunday, March 19, 2006

True or False - 2005 was the year of lies

It's an event that's anticipated all year long. An honor that will make the winners infamous. These awards are as exciting as the Oscars, Grammy's or Emmy's. Each year the Center for Media and Democracy gives out their coveted Falsies Awards for those public relations campaigns that have outperformed and out-spun all other flack campaigns.

The year of 2005 seemed to be the year of fake news. Over the past twelve months, the ideal of accurate, reliable, accountable news media faced nearly constant attack. Artificial news ranging from Pentagon-planted stories in Iraqi newspapers to corporate- and government-funded VNR's aired by U.S. newsrooms.
Then there were the public relations campaigns that sought to redefine reality itself. The oil and nuclear industries are big award winners. As are rights abusing governments and labor abusing companies. Junk food companies made the list as did genetically modified foods.

The coveted Gold Falsies Award of 2005 goes to the video news release industry with a supporting role from the newsrooms that aired them. In March, the New York Times reported, "At least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgment of the government's role."

The Silver Falsies Award goes to the mainstream media and the Bush administration, for "Not Counting the Dead." Its no surprise at this point that many media outlets self-censored their reporting on Iraq, often out of fear of offending their audience. The U.S. media downplayed, in an October 2004 medical study that estimated nearly 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died since the U.S. invasion. In response to a question at a December talk, President Bush broke his silence on civilian casualties and admitted that "30,000 Iraqis, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence.

The Bronze Falsies Award goes to the U.S. military and their public relations contractors, for "Spinning Wars and PsyOps." In January, the Pentagon increased media training for forces going to Iraq, making briefings by public-affairs specialists mandatory for Army troops. Soldiers were also given wallet-sized "talking point" cards, one of which said, "We are not an occupying force" Also, in June, the Pentagon awarded up to $300 million over five years to SYColeman, Inc., Lincoln Group and Science Applications International Corporation, to "inject more creativity into efforts to improve foreign public opinion about the United States, particularly the military," reported the Washington Post.


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