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Hullabaloo


Sunday, September 28, 2014

 
Buying "content" or propaganda?

by digby

I'd guess this wasn't an isolated incident:
Yesterday I received a flattering email with a generous financial offer. “I came across several of your articles on the Columbia Tribune website and I really like your work,” Molly Berry of a company called Skyword wrote to me from Boston.

I blushed.

She was looking for writers, she told me in the email. Grow Missouri wanted “content” for its blog. “Based on your writing style and level of expertise, I think you would be a great fit,” Berry wrote.

In case you are unsure, Grow Missouri is the political advocacy group created by Rex Sinquefield that flew a giant blimp over Columbia during the Tigers inexplicable loss to Indiana. Perhaps that is due to Sinquefield’s own losing streak this year. But more about that later.

I was to receive $250 for each article, two or three each month, of 500 to 700 words. I didn’t even have attach my name to the articles, she told me.

That was the signal that made me think she was attempting to buy me. I could have written the articles anonymously, pocketed the money and kept quiet about it around the Tribune.

Just because everything that appeared afterward in the Tribune about Grow Missouri and its wealthy creator and only donor Rex Sinquefield happened to emphasize benevolent intentions towards the state and all the citizens who didn’t have $628,000 to spend on defeating four lawmakers would be mere coincidence.

“Thank you for the kind words regarding my work but I have never written for any advocacy group & do not intend to do so,” I replied to Berry. “Accepting this offer would disqualify me for my job at the Tribune covering state government.”

The lowest form of reporter, and one I hope has long since been run out of the business, is one who takes secret payments from people they cover. It could be due to my inherent mediocrity, but this has never happened before in any form. I have never been offered a job by a politician or political organization.

I try to be hard to offend. If you tell me by breath smells bad, I will get a mint or brush my teeth.

This particular offer had the rankest odor of anything I have encountered in my professional career.
The group explained that this was a big mistake, they didn't mean to approach reporters, it was a PR vendor etc, etc. And maybe it was.  But even if they aren't dumb enough to approach legitimate journalists, you know they are hiring someone to write their propaganda.

The whole story is quite interesting as an anatomy of a rich man's project --- a project designed to influence the public to support his cause: himself. This is all about tax cuts for the wealthy. Natch.

.