John C. Stauber" (by way of (pgpMedia)) on Mon, 12 May 1997 00:10:57 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Stauber 'counter clio' award

Dear friends,
        Here is the document I'm distributing at the 'counter clio awards' this
Tuesday at NYU.
        This isn't my brief presentation, but rather the documentation to
go with

Best regards,

John Stauber

3318 Gregory Street, Madison, WI 53711         Ph (608) 233-3346

 5/13/97 'Counter Clio Awards', NY University, NYC
Remarks of John Stauber, editor of PR Watch (1.)

'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You Award'
to TV News Directors for
'The Advertising Best Disguised As Journalism'

        On the occasion of the 'First Annual Counter-Clios' I am presenting a
'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You' award to America's TV News Directors for annually
airing as 'news' thousands of Video News Releases.  VNRs are biased and
deceptive propaganda disguised as TV journalism and provided free by PR agencies
on behalf of corporate and government clients.  Through the widespread use of
unidentified VNRs, TV news directors daily deceive and mislead the public,
exploiting an undeserved trust in electronic journalism.

        VNRs replace real journalism with fake news paid for by corporate
advertisers, and allow TV stations to layoff journalists by replacing them with
free VNR footage.  The Radio and TV News Directors Association (RTNDA)
recommends that VNRs be identified when used, but this is almost never done.
The RTNDA is powerless to enforce even the most minimal standard of ethical

        A recent investors newsletter accurately and bluntly describes the
situation while recommending a stock 'buy' in Medialink, a leading VNR
distribution company.

        "A VNR is the video equivalent of a conventional paper press release and
is used ... to introduce a new product or service, explain a technological
breakthrough, communicate during a crisis, or advocate a position on an issue of
public concern.  Medialink provides its products free-of-charge to television
and radio newsrooms in order to remove the stigma of 'paid advertising' that
would create a conflict of interest for news programing.
        "News programing hours have more than doubled in the past five
years, and
television stations are scrambling ...  to fill their programing needs.
Medialink supplies  ...  newsworthy products that news producers and directors
utilize extensively on a daily basis.  ...[Medialink] routinely has VNRs that
are used on national telecasts by all four major networks.
        "A 1994 Roper Survey indicated that 72% of Americans get their news from
TV as opposed to only 40% from newspapers.  More important, by a margin greater
than 2 to 1, Americans believe that what they see on TV is more credible than
what they read in a newspaper.  ...While Americans watch more television, they
... tune out commercial messages.  ...[C]onveying a corporate message to a
consumer via news is potentially more effective than advertising."  (2.)

        I am tonight airing footage from a VNR described in my book Toxic Sludge
Is Good For You, to illustrate my point.

        "Hill & Knowlton ... line[d] up national environmental groups behind a
coalition called "Partners for Sun Protection Awareness," a front group for Hill
& Knowlton's client, drug transnational Schering-Plough. Best known for
Coppertone(tm) sun lotion, Schering-Plough uses the coalition to "educate" the
public about the dangers of skin cancer deaths, cataracts and damaged immune
systems due to the atmosphere's thinning ozone layer and increased ultraviolet
radiation. The campaign urges people to 'liberally apply a sunscreen . . . to
all exposed parts of the body before going outdoors.'
                "Hill &Knowlton successfully enlisted leaders of the Natural
Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club to add their names to the
"Partners for Sun Protection" letterhead. Apparently these groups are little
more than a dash of green window-dressing for the campaign. The "Partners"
offered no proposals for preventing further thinning of the ozone layer. A
representative of one of the environmental groups, who asked not to be named,
said he was ignorant of the Schering-Plough funding and its hidden agenda to
sell sun lotion.
                The best prevention for sun-caused skin cancer is, of course, to
cover up completely, but saying so would be market suicide for the world's
largest maker of suntan lotion and purveyor of the sexy "Coppertone(tm) tan."
The campaign's clever "video news release" shows scores of sexy, scantily-clad
sun worshipers still over-exposing themselves to UV rays, while slathering
themselves with sun oil. The VNR does not mention Schering-Plough, the funder of
the PR campaign. Ironically, Hill &Knowlton has also worked for corporate
clients who hired them to belittle the environmental risks of global climate
change.  (3.)


1.)     John Stauber is editor of PR Watch, a quarterly providing investigative
reporting on the PR industry.  He and Sheldon Rampton are co-authors of Toxic
Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry
(Common Courage Press).  For more info visit:

2.)     "Medialink Worldwide, Inc., All the news that's fit to view," Investment
Research Department, Wheat First Butcher Singer, 3/10/97.  Contact: Miles D.
Russ, 804-782-3626

3.)     Stauber & Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the
Public Relations Industry, Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME.  P.71

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