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Volunteer contributors continue to be the mainstay of SourceWatch, our open-source encylopedia of the people, organizations and issues shaping the public agenda. SourceWatch (formerly the "Disinfopedia") is a "wiki," which means that anyone (including you) can edit existing articles or create new ones about the topics of your choice. Since its launch in 2003, it has become the 14th-largest wiki on the Internet, and usage continues to grow. It now includes more than 7,400 articles. In July approximately 1.86 million pages from SourceWatch were served to web users.

War is Fun as Hell

Gamers line up for their turn to practice shooting people in the America's Army booth at the 2005 Electronic Entertainment Expo.Years of writing about public relations and propaganda has probably made me a bit jaded, but I was amazed nevertheless when I visited America's Army, an online video game website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). In its quest to find recruits, the military has literally turned war into entertainment.

"America's Army" offers a range of games that kids can download or play online. Although the games are violent, with plenty of opportunities to shoot and blow things up, they avoid graphic images of death or other ugliness of war, offering instead a sanitized, Tom Clancy version of fantasy combat. One game, Overmatch, promises "a contest in which one opponent is distinctly superior ... with specialized skills and superior technology ... OVERMATCH: few soldiers, certain victory" (more or less the same overconfident message that helped lead us into Iraq).

Surveying the Fake News Scene

Graphic from Associated Press Television News' website, advertising their VNR services.What do you think about fake news? That's what the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has been asking our readers for the past two weeks.

We surveyed people about what the disclosure guidelines should be for video news releases (VNRs) and audio news releases (ANRs). (We do define "fake news" more broadly, as not just TV and radio segments provided by outside parties, but also pundit payola and any other media manipulation falsely presented as independent journalism. However, brevity is the soul of good survey response rates!)

Oprah Not "The Only Mad Cow In America," Thanks to Texas Governor Perry

A popular Texas bumper sticker reads: "The only mad cow in America is Oprah." Not anymore, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the first confirmed home-grown case of mad cow is a Texas beef cow.

As Sheldon Rampton and I report in Mad Cow USA, the United States failed to take the measures necessary to stop the spread of the fatal dementia dubbed mad cow disease. However, a successful PR campaign by industry and government has, to this day, fooled most of the press and the public into believing that all necessary steps were taken long ago. A major part of the effort to spin and intimidate media coverage involved suing Oprah Winfrey under the Texas Food Disparagement Act, after her 1996 program examining mad cow risks in America.

RJR Hoped Tomlinson and Readers Digest Could Rescue Its Dying Cigarette

In January 1989 the R.J.Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) was desperately trying to salvage its 'smokeless' Premier cigarette from marketing oblivion. On behalf of RJR Matt Swetonic, then a Senior Vice President in Hill & Knowlton's New York office, set out to court Kenneth Tomlinson, the then Executive Editor of Readers Digest, in the hope of garnering favorable media coverage. (These days Tomlinson is the controversial Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting).

For RJR the attraction of pitching the Premier story to the Readers Digest was precisely because for decades it had relentlessly highlighted the deadly impact of smoking. Favorable media coverage of Premier could not only undermine tobacco control activists arguments against cigarettes but could help reverse the relentless march to market share dominance of Philip Morris's Marlboro brand.

How to Bury a Mad Cow

Late Friday, June 24, is a perfect time to bury bad news in Washington, DC. That's when Mike Johanns, the United States Secretary of Agriculture held a news conference. He announced that a beef cow suspected last November to be positive with mad cow disease, and finally properly tested, was indeed positive. Even now the USDA is keeping secret which state the cow was from, but Texas has long been mentioned in media articles.


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