Wednesday, October 19, 2016

What They Don't Want You To Know

Natalie Chatterton

In today’s society, news media stations are an important outlet where individuals receive their news about current events, political news, what is trending online, and health stories. In the light of ethical journalism, it is important to clearly state the facts without any bias or opinion, to give the audience the information to let them create their own perspective on the matter.  The ever-growing techniques that are evolving on the internet are causing debate within the journalism field about what is ethical and what isn’t when producing media for audiences.  It is important to recognize these techniques and the shadow they cast over the media.
In the reading titled the need to protect the internet from 'astroturfing' grows ever more urgent by George Monbiot, he states “The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations.” If you do not know what astroturf is, it is described in the article as “fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies.”
Though there are many example of astroturfing. I wanted to look into one specific example with Microsoft and astroturfing.
Microsoft was allegedly sued and accused of becoming a monopoly and engaging in unethical practices. The issues arose whether or not Microsoft was allowed to bundle its flagship Internet Explorer web browser software, with its own Microsoft Windows system. Having these two software’s bundled together was said to be the reason why Microsoft won the victory in the browser wars.  This restricted the competing market of web browsers like Navigator and Netscape. Reportedly, there was an organized letter campaign to State Attorney Generals across the country defending Microsoft. According to Joseph Menn and Edmund Sanders, who wrote the article titled Microsoft lobbying campaign backfires; even dead people write in support of firm, “The Microsoft campaign goes to great lengths to create an impression that the letters are spontaneous expressions from ordinary people. Letters sent in the last month are on personalized stationery using different wording, color and typefaces, details that distinguish Microsoft's efforts from lobbying tactics that go on in politics every day.”  Among Microsoft’s astroturfing, there were two letters written by individuals that were not even alive anymore, shining light on the obvious efforts of Microsoft and astroturfing.
Among astroturfing, there are many more examples of news media outlets going “behind the curtain.”

In the reading assigned titled Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law by Greg Toppo, it is reported that Armstrong Williams, an African American conservative and host for The Right Side, was paid by the Bush Administration to promote the law on national television in efforts to support the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) campaign and gain more support among black families. House Education Committee Representative George Miller states “this is a very questionable use of taxpayers' money and probably illegal." In counterpart to Miller's accusations, Williams stated "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in." Whether or not Williams believed in the NCLB campaign you cannot disregard the influence Williams has in the black community, as well as the money offered by the Bush administration.
Armstrong Williams is not the only commentator who was reported to be paid by the Bush Administration and the promotion of policies. 
In an article by Anne E. Kornblutjan titled Third Journalist Was Paid to Promote Bush Policies, Kornblutjan states “The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed having hired Michael McManus, who writes a weekly syndicated column and is director of a nonprofit group called Marriage Savers.” McManus was paid $10,000 to help train counselors about marriage, and reportedly was hired for his expertise. But, with the occurrence of the Armstrong Williams case, you cannot help but be persuaded that McManus was influenced by The Department of Health and Human Services in his column.

We have seen in the many examples above, the issues with journalistic endeavors and the persuasion of the media. It is important for journalists to remain unbiased and to know the signs of ethical dilemmas when working "behind the curtain," this is prevalent for the sake of the community and your journalistic duties.

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