Daily News Archives
Dave Smith authored three articles that appeared in two hunting and fishing magazines, neither of which mentioned that he was paid by the government. According to USA Today, the stories focused on how money from a 2002 agricultural subsidy bill had been used to help preserve wetlands that hunting and fishing enthusiasts enjoy in Oklahoma and the Northwest.
Mr. Smith told USA
Today that the magazines knew he'd been paid by the Agriculture
Department. “I clearly spelled out to them,” in writing,
“that I'd been hired to do this,” he told the newspaper.
He said the magazines did not pay him for the articles. “I knew
I couldn't be paid by them” since he'd already been compensated
by USDA. Mr. Smith said he did not mention in the stories that he had
been paid by NRCS. “I'd already explained to the magazines what
the deal was and I thought they would take care of it from there.”
The USDA scandal is not the first such incident involving federal agencies. In 2003 and 2004, the Department of Education paid Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator and CEO of The Right Side Production company, $240,000 to help promote its No Child Left Behind program. Also the Department of Health and Human Services paid two columnists more than $40,000 to write brochures and train some of its staff without disclosing the payments to their readers, according to USA Today.
In light of this
alarming news, Senators Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
and Harry Reid (D-NV) sent
a letter to President Bush demanding that he recover the money paid
to Mr. Williams, citing federal laws that prohibit such activity. In
addition, the lawmakers also asked President Bush to disclose any payments
to other journalists to push Administration policies, including President
Bush's decision to privatize Social Security.
“These ‘rules of the game’ permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading. I decided long ago that this wasn’t healthy for democracy. I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.”
Read a complete transcript of Bill Moyers speech to the National Conferece for Media Reform.