THE WEEKLY SPIN, Wednesday, September 1, 2004
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1. GCI Groups Does RNC PR
2. Swift Boat Vets' Book Gets PR Help
3. PR 101 – How to Slime a War Hero
4. Gone Fishing for Publicity
5. Keeping Jesus Off Camera
6. Ghostwriters for Bush
7. Auto Industry Front Group Opposes California Clean Air Proposal
8. Block the Vote
9. Press Conference From Hell
10. This Song Is Your Song
11. Media to Blame for Swift Boat Hype
12. More Ads, Less Journalism
13. Lower than Journalists
14. Greenwashing Ford's SUVs
15. Political Football

1. GCI GROUPS DOES RNC PR “The New York City Host Committee for the Republican National Convention has retained GCI Group to provide on-site media services for members of the press throughout the convention,” PR trade publication the Holmes Report writes. “GCI Group will be working from the James A. Farley Building, which will house 10,000 members of the media during the convention. 'The advantage of having the media covering the convention in one location is that it allows the Host Committee to provide excellent services to the press,' said Host Committee president Kevin Sheekey.† 'Perhaps the most important service we will provide to reporters is the ability to access helpful information about the convention and New York City quickly and easily, and we are very happy that the GCI Group will be providing this vital service.'”
SOURCE: Holmes Report, August 30, 2004
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2. SWIFT BOAT VETS' BOOK GETS PR HELP “Conservative columnist Bob Novak has touted the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth book Unfit for Command without revealing that his son heads marketing and PR for its publisher,” O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. The New York Times writes that Novak has “lauded” the book in his syndicated columns and on CNN's 'Crossfire.' “Unmentioned in Mr. Novak's columns and television appearances, however, is a personal connection he has to the book: his son, Alex Novak, is the director of marketing for its publisher, the conservative publishing house Regnery,” the Times writes.
SOURCE: O'Dwyer's PR Daily (sub. req'd), August 30, 2004
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3. PR 101 – HOW TO SLIME A WAR HERO The Swift Boat attack on Kerry uses a classic [third party] propaganda tactic: have PR professionals [such as Merrie Spaeth] organize and launch a well-funded smear attack, an ad hominem barrage against Kerry's integrity, and do it through a front group with enough separation from the Bush campaign to pretend independence. Then use the right-wing echo chamber to keep the issue alive and churning, spitting plenty of mud and confusion. It's a strategy that is virtually guaranteed to hurt Kerry in the polls.
SOURCE: Alternet
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4. GONE FISHING FOR PUBLICITY Anglers on their way into the north woods of Wisconsin this Labor Day weekend won't be seeing one important message about the Bush administration's environmental record. This month Environment 2004 tried to place an advertisement on two billboards along a Wisconsin highway that declared, “Mercury. It's what's for dinner. Served up by the Bush Administration.” The ads were refused by the billboard company, Lamar Advertising of Central Wisconsin.
SOURCE:, August 28, 2004
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5. KEEPING JESUS OFF CAMERA “Don't expect to see the reverends Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham at the podium during next week's Republican National Convention, whose planners hope to keep fire, brimstone and the Christian Right offstage at Madison Square Garden. About the only big name Christians making prime-time noise at Madison Square Garden at next week's Republican gathering will be Third Day, a popular [pro-Bush] evangelical Christian rock band. .. . Some say the prominent role of Christian conservatives at the 1992 convention turned moderate voters away from the Republican ticket. This year, President Bush's campaign strategists have made extraordinary efforts to mobilize conservative evangelical and conservative Catholic voters — hoping the president's stand against abortion rights and same-sex marriage will get them to the polls and into the Republican column. But the four-day convention that opens in New York on Monday will highlight moderate Republicans — such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.”
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle, August 28, 2004
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6. GHOSTWRITERS FOR BUSH The Daily Kos recently uncovered an astroturf (fake grassroots) initiative by the George W. Bush campaign, which generated ghostwritten letters to the editor that found their way into at least 60 newspapers. This isn't the first time that the Bush administration has tried this trick, as we've reported in the past. According to Editor and Publisher, however, the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW) is now taking the issue seriously. “On its NCEW e-mail listserv, some 600 subscribers who are mostly editorial page writers and editors, can alert one another of suspicious letters,” writes Charles Geraci. “In fact, this is the most consistent topic on the listserv.” Meanwhile, the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk critiques the Washington Post's coverage of the topic, showing how an “obsession with 'even-handedness'” led the Post to falsely claim that the Kerry campaign is doing the same thing.
SOURCE: Editor and Publisher, August 27, 2004
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file:///Users/lauramiller/Desktop/Ad%20Firm%20Targets%20Emissions%20Proposal.html “A public relations firm with ties to the automobile industry has launched ads suggesting that a proposed California rule to cut carbon dioxide exhaust could cause more people to die in traffic accidents,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Starring 'Squeezy the Clown,' the radio and newspaper advertisements by the Sport Utility Vehicle Owners of America use humor to make a questionable claim: The regulation to combat global warming will compel auto companies to make smaller vehicles, forcing California families into diminutive cars and trucks that could endanger their lives. … But SUV Owners of America is not a grass-roots organization. It is run by Strat@comm, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm whose clients have included General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Ford, as well as the auto industry's two major trade groups.”
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2004
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8. BLOCK THE VOTE The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other civil rights leaders say the Republican Party is mounting a campaign to keep African-Americans and other minority voters away from the polls this November. “In recent years, many minority communities have tended to align with the Democratic Party,” states a new report cosponsored by the NAACP and People for the American Way. “Over the past two decades, the Republican Party has launched a series of 'ballot security' and 'voter integrity' initiatives which have targeted minority communities. …Voter intimidation is not a relic of the past, but a pervasive strategy used with disturbing frequency in recent years. Sustaining the bright promise of the civil rights era, and maintaining the dream of equal voting rights for every citizen requires constant vigilance, courageous leadership, and an active, committed and well-informed citizenry.” (We've reported ourselves on efforts at voter suppression in our latest book, Banana Republicans: How the Right Wing Is Turning America Into a One-Party State.)
SOURCE: Washington Post, August 26, 2004
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9. PRESS CONFERENCE FROM HELL “I don't know what the news is from the rest of Iraq or even what's going on with the governor of Najaf,” writes Chris Albritton, a freelance journalist who has been covering the fighting in Iraq. “I do know what's happening with the police department, however. They're raiding the Sea of Najaf hotel and rounding the 100 or so journalists at gunpoint and subjecting them to mass arrest.” Albritton describes his recent experience, when police “raided the hotel and forced all the journalists out onto the street. We were terrified. The cops yelled at us and pointed their weapons toward us. Several large trucks were waiting and knew we would be loaded onto them. Then they started shooting. … BANG BANG! They fired their weapons just over our heads forcing us to crouch.” The reporters were hauled off to the police station, where they were treated to what Albritton describes as “the most bizarre press conference of my life.” The police chief informed them that “The Shrine would be stormed tonight, … and we would be allowed to get on a bus and go visit it tomorrow to see the damage the Mahdi Army had done to it. The Sistani protesters in Kufa were really Mahdi guys and they had to be killed. Oh, and thank you for coming.” Albritton says the Najaf police are “like the old regime, only less disciplined. They're terrifying and they're the most dangerous element in this conflict. … The police here have been engaging in a systematic intimidation of us for three weeks now. The governor of Najaf has reportedly threatened to jail journalists who don't write down exactly what he says when he says it in interviews.”
SOURCE: Back to Iraq, August 26, 2004
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10. THIS SONG IS YOUR SONG Ludlow Music, a humor-challenged company that claimed to own the rights to Woody Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land,” has dropped its lawsuit against JibJab Media, the Web animators who adapted Guthrie's song to create a wildly popular parody of the U.S. presidential campaign.
SOURCE: CNET, August 25, 2004
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11. MEDIA TO BLAME FOR SWIFT BOAT HYPE While the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth may have a questionable grasp of the facts, it has been extraordinarily sophisticated in its manipulation of the media,” observes the Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk weblog. “To understand why this campaign has been hijacked by a small group of veterans bearing a thirty-year old grudge, it's worth examining the institutional susceptibilities of a campaign press corps that allowed the SBVFT's accusations to take on a life of their own. The SBVFT may have put themselves in the game, but it's a flawed media that made them stars. Campaign Desk has written many times about the perils of 'he said/she said' journalism, the practice of reporters parroting competing rhetoric instead of measuring it for veracity against known facts. In the wake of the first SBVFT spot early this month, cable news programs for the most part offered viewers two talking heads, one on each side of the issue, to debate the merits of the claims. Verifiable facts were rarely offered to viewers — despite the fact that military records supporting Kerry's version of events were readily available. Instead of acting as filters for the truth, reporters nodded and attentively transcribed both sides of the story, invariably failing to provide context, background, or any sense of which claims held up and which were misleading. … There have been dozens of press failures during this presidential campaign. But this one … has to rank as a low point.”
SOURCE: Campaign Desk, August 25, 2004
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12. MORE ADS, LESS JOURNALISM “Continuing a twenty-year trend that has seen advertising expenses skyrocket as traditional political party organizing has fallen by the wayside, the total for political ads this election year is estimated by most industry analysts at over $1.5 billion, $400 million of which will be spent by the presidential campaigns,” report Sakura Saunders and Ben Clarke. “Over the last 24 years, broadcast TV advertising alone has increased from $90 million to over a $1 billion. At roughly the same pace that advertising revenue has grown, broadcast TV coverage of substantive electoral issues has dwindled. Network convention coverage, for example, has fallen from around 100 hours in 1980 to approximately 18 hours this year.”
SOURCE: Corpwatch, August 25, 2004
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13. LOWER THAN JOURNALISTS Among the professions “less popular than journalism,” notes Bill Hagerty, the “furtive world of public relations” is considered by many people to be “a black art, inferior only to child slave-trading or body-snatching.” He cites a recent survey showing that British journalists hold PR people in especially low esteem. Nevertheless, he notes, “indications are that PR and publicists are becoming increasingly more influential and powerful.”
SOURCE: Independent (UK), August 24, 2004
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14. GREENWASHING FORD'S SUVS “The launching of the 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid this fall marks an auto industry first: the coupling of a hybrid electric engine, containing the most energy-efficient fuel system available, with an SUV, the least efficient class of passenger vehicle,” writes Geoffrey Johnson. The Escape Hybrid won't do much to improve the environment, and Ford isn't expected to make money on it either. Johnson concludes that Ford, which has the worst fleetwide fuel economy of any major U.S. auto manufacturer, is engaged in “a clear-cut case of 'greenwashing.' Ford hopes to mold a public perception that Ford has gone green, that the company is a model of corporate responsibility. … In the end, the slick images and exaggerated claims of greenwashing by Ford and others divert our attention from the corporate-fueled environmental destruction taking place all around us. And that means that greenwashing, far from promoting a better world, is itself a serious environmental problem.”
SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2004
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15. POLITICAL FOOTBALL Iraqi soccer players at the Olympic games in Greece are angered at the Bush campaign for using the Iraqi Olympic team in Bush's latest re-election campaign advertisements. “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” said Iraqi midfielder Salih Sadir. Another player, Ahmed Manajid, had even stronger words: “How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women?” Manajid said. “He has committed so many crimes.” Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl interviewed the players. “To a man,” he reports, “members of the Iraqi Olympic delegation say they are glad that former Olympic committee head Uday Hussein, who was responsible for the serial torture of Iraqi athletes and?was killed ?four?months?after the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq?in March 2003, is no longer in power. But they also find it offensive that Bush is using ?Iraq for his own gain when they do not support his administration's actions.”
SOURCE: Sports Illustrated, August 19, 2004
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