Last Sunday's New York Times feature 'Under Bush, A New Age of Prepackaged News' revealed that ready-made news -- in the form of video news releases (VNRs) produced by professional public relations agencies -- has been standard practice for the last four years. At least 20 federal agencies have been involved in fabricating one or more stories, totaling thousands of broadcast 'news' segments a year. While it is important to see this coming to light, the Times piece only reveals the tip of the iceberg of fake news Americans consume daily.
According to John Stauber of PR Watch, the vast majority of the thousands of fake news stories we see, hear, and read every year come not from the government, but from corporations. Stauber and co-author Sheldon Rampton uncovered the phenomenon of corporate and government VNRs in their 1995 book Toxic Sludge is Good for You. 'Ten years ago the airing of fake news was widespread,' Stauber said on Monday. 'Today it is much worse.'
Congress' nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has declared the administration's VNRs an illegal abuse of public funds, a ruling the White House openly defied last Friday, telling federal agencies to continue the practice. Stauber's Center for Media Democracy and the media reform group Free Press, have launched an online petition calling on Congress to put an end to the fabrication of news. Stauber punctuates this point reminding us that, 'television is the number one source of so-called news for most Americans,' surmising that 'a huge proportion of that is fake news.' At least Jeff Gannon can now share his burden.
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