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Looking for Leads on an Environmental Story

Here's your chance to help with an important journalistic investigation. Former New York Times reporter Philip Shabecoff and his wife Alice are doing research about the links between environmental toxicants and the epidemic of children’s chronic illnesses in the United States today, and they're looking for some leads. The research will lead to a book for the general public. Beyond documenting the evidence arising from the new sciences, the Shabecoffs intend to tell stories about families and communities affected by corporate behavior. The Shabecoffs will try to ‘follow the money’ to explain government laxity.

The following are questions for which the Shabecoffs would appreciate responses or leads to sources of information:

Bush Wins Earth Day Greenwashing Award (If There Were One)

The greens are getting pounded politically, losing almost every national battle they fight, including the new energy bill. Today, on the 35th anniversary of Earth Day, they can't even beat George Bush at the PR game.

Thirty-five years ago 20 million Americans demonstrated, rallied, teach-in'd, lobbied, danced and partied for a healthy, ecologically sound planet on the very first Earth Day. This unprecedented and massive grassroots mobilization was followed by a flurry of green political reforms (supported by many Republicans), from the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency to the first Environmental Impact Statements and the first national clean air and clean water laws. Now, even though surveys show enviromentalism is more widespread and popular than ever, with citizens donating hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Washington DC's big green groups, the movement is a political basket case.

A Bumper Crop of Government-Produced "News": The USDA's Broadcast Media and Technology Center

"Beef trade with Japan and Canada was on the minds of producers at the annual National Cattlemen's Beef Association convention in San Antonio, Texas," a man's voice intones, as the television news segment opens with a shot of a slowly rotating sign reading "U.S. Premium Beef." The voice continues, "Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns addressed the gathering and afterward took questions from the media."

Will "Fake News" Survive?

Will ongoing investigations and public outrage be sufficient to end the debased media practices that result in "fake news"?

Producers of the fake TV news stories called video news releases (VNRs) hope not. Some are worried, though. "Crisis" is the word Kevin McCauley of the public relations trade publication O'Dwyer's used in a recent column.

VNR producers are struggling to find allies, even within the PR industry. For the last three weeks, O'Dwyer's has been running an online poll asking, "Should there be a limit on the U.S. Government's use of video news releases?" Seventy-two percent of respondents to date support VNR restrictions. (O'Dwyer's doesn't disclose the number of respondents.)

VNR producers may very well be thanking their lucky stars for the Bush White House.

CMD & Free Press File 'Fake News' Complaint with FCC on Behalf of 40,000 Petition Signers

The Center for Media and Democracy and Free Press have filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission urging an investigation of the extensive airing of "fake news" by TV broadcasters who take government and corporate Video News Release (VNR) stories and run them unlabeled as real journalism. In just one week nearly 40,000 citizens have signed our petition calling on the FCC, Congress and local broadcasters to stop fake news.


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