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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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Friday, August 11, 2000

Volume 8, Number 16

Kudos... to USA Today

An editorial in the August 7 edition of USA Today alerted readers to yet another venue for anti-business (and pro-Gore) bias that’s appeared in the media this year: public service advertising. "In an election year, mainstream newspapers and TV networks generally try to avoid partisanship," declared USA Today. (MediaNomics doesn’t know exactly how hard they try, but we will always encourage the media to be bias-free.)

"But this year," continued the editorial, "one of the public service ads they’re running is giving an indirect boost to the Gore campaign, as well as to an assortment of contentious causes. Among them: fighting international trade agreements, restricting genetically-engineered crops and pushing international rules to curb global warming." Those issues are all part of an anti-business agenda that was most visible in violent street protests outside a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle last November.

The editorial documented how several member groups of the ad campaign’s sponsor, Earth Share, are in apparent violation of the Ad Council’s rules on partisan activity. The Sierra Club is one member of Earth Share, as is the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and Greenpeace. "Already this year," said USA Today, "the Sierra Club has run ads in California attacking the Republican presidential candidate, Gov. George W. Bush. Last month, it demanded a veto of a Republican appropriation bill and endorsed Al Gore."

"Given the Ad Council’s history and the sensitivities of its members, there’s no reason to believe that bias is the intent. The likelier cause is sloppiness. But the result is the same," the editorial concluded.

USA Today also carried a rebuttal from Peggy Conlon, the Ad Council’s President, who argued that "Earth Share...meets all of our campaign criteria and has itself strict criteria for the groups that it represents." Perhaps, but USA Today presented many specific instances of political activity by Earth Share’s member groups besides the Sierra Club, and correctly warned that "if the Ad Council and its sponsors want to keep their credibility, they need to keep their distance from charitable groups with high-minded goals but clear political agendas."

Kudos to USA Today for advocating a higher standard for those whose credibility depends on assuring the public of their political neutrality.

Rich Noyes







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