Aug 27, 2009

Uncle Sam wants you to stay positive*

Star and Stripes offers more details of the Pentagon's program to profile reporters and rate their work as "positive," "negative" or "neutral" before they're embedded with military units. The paper also found evidence that the ratings are used to shape coverage of the increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan.

From Star and Stripes:
One reporter on the staff of one of America’s pre-eminent newspapers is rated in a Pentagon report as “neutral to positive” in his coverage of the U.S. military. Any negative stories he writes “could possibly be neutralized” by feeding him mitigating quotes from military officials.

Another reporter, from a TV station, provides coverage from a “subjective angle,” according to his Pentagon profile. Steering him toward covering “the positive work of a successful operation” could “result in favorable coverage.”

The Pentagon had denied an earlier story that the ratings system, developed by an outside contractor, the Rendon Group, was used to determine which reporters would be embedded and even denied the ratings system existed. The evidence seems to contradict this. Again from Stars and Stripes:

“The purpose of this memo is to provide an assessment of [a reporter from a major U.S. newspaper] … in order to gauge the expected sentiment of his work while on an embed mission in Afghanistan,” reads the preamble to one of the reporter profiles prepared for the Pentagon by The Rendon Group, a controversial Washington-based public relations firm.
*Update: The Pentagon is now looking into the program that it once said didn't exist, Stars and Stripes now reports.

No comments: