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Monday, 29 July 2013 11:17

Washington Post Shamefully Takes Money From Big Oil to Sponsor Its Headlines Online

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

oilwp7 29The American Petroleum Institutue (API) is to the oil industry what the National Rifle Association is to the gun industry: the gold standard for advocating for destructive policies on behalf of their respective industries.

Of course, in DC, the Petroleum Institute is basically perceived as a lobbying group with clout equaled by perhaps only the financial industry, so API is a respected trade association that has what the news industry considers the sin qua non of legitimacy in the nation's capital: power, money and legislative success.

So maybe it is no surprise to see the Washignton Post (WP) Monday, July 29th, e-mail alert sponsored by -- you guessed it -- The American Petroleum Institute.  And this wasn't one of those subtle advertising payment opportunities, where the name of the sponoring corporation or organization is dropped in at the end of the e-mail.

This is how the subject line of the e-mail reads: "Subject: [Washington Post] Monday Morning Headlines--Presented by the American Petroleum Institute [Jul 29, 2013]." Now, it is true that the WP may write negative articles on the oil industry now and then, but the credibility that the API gains with a marquee headline such as this one is priceless.

Furthermore, the WP and other mainstream media, including even such sites as MSNBC, regularly run greenwashing ads from oil and natural gas companies.  It's a bit of a challenge to maintain an aggressive policy on let's say global warming when a good chunk of your advertising dollars are coming from the fossil fuel industry -- when indeed their parent trade association is sponsoring your morning "news."

I love when corporate mainstream media, and even some progressive sites, claim that their editorial and advertising departments have a clear firewall separating them.   Let's just say that if there is a fire on the adveritising side (as in the gas companies pulling all their ads and sponsorships) the news side goes up in flames -- and they know it.  So news editors, after meetings with the executive editor who has just met with the publisher, understand that pulling punches when it comes to reporting on the destruction of our planet due to the rapacious fossil fuel attack on the earth, well pulling punches is a good idea.

And although it will hurt many progressives to hear it, that extends to a lesser degree to MSNBC, which is owned by Comcast.  It's not just the shilling for oil companies that appears before online rebroadcasts of segments from MSNBC progressive programs on its website (not to mention ads that can you make gag as Goldman Sachs is touted as a concerned member of your community), it's what sometimes doesn't get said because of corporate conflicts of interest.

As Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting (FAIR) reported on July 24th, Rachel Maddow recently did a usual nice detailed piece on how some key corporations, such as Kraft and PepsiCo, pulling out of ALEC had forced it to reconsider its sponsorship of some bills far afield of corporate interests, such as "Stand Your Ground" bills.  (Of course, ALEC supported such bills because it helps build coalitions with other lobbying power houses such as the NRA, who will then give ALEC support on bills that are directly business-related.)

However, as FAIR points out, Maddow never mentioned that her employer, Comcast, had not pulled out of ALEC and by all indicators is still quite an active member of ALEC.   It is doubtful that this omission was just an oversight. 

Once you work for a mega-corporation, your ideals become a bit more pragmatic.

You start thinking about keeping your job, about keeping advertisers from calling owners and shouting into the phone, about ads being pulled because of coverage that exposes coporations who pay for commercials.

Remember that almost all television news and most print news serve as conduits to deliver advertising to a specific demographic group of consumers.

In many ways, the choice of news stories in the media is heavily influenced by the context of the advertising that finances a news company.

That's the oily truth.

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(Photo: ollesvenson)