Wick Communications

Paying for coverage

In Online media on September 16, 2011 at 10:35 am

Google News struck a blow for all that is holy this week. Perhaps you heard that the world’s most popular search engine/Internet behemoth booted something called “News Hawk Review” from its Google News listing.

Here’s what happened – and one reason it should make you wary the next time you conduct an Internet search.

The Los Angeles Times published a story recently noting that a local water authority called Central Basin Municipal Water District paid a consultant $200,000 to produce positive “stories” that would be listed high on Google News. Obviously, the public agency wasn’t interested in promoting real newsgathering. If it was, it would talk to a real reporter, issue a press release, hire a reputable PR firm. Rather it was seeking to spread propaganda under the guise of news. That is a deliberate attempt to deceive ratepayers.

I’m sure the powers that be at the district, which collects tax money to deliver water to a segment of southeast L.A., would argue they only wanted to get out the good word. Hogwash. I think we can agree that public agencies ought not be in the business of confusing the public they serve. …

It appears by the six-figure sum paid the consultant that fake news is a lucrative business, ironically more lucrative than providing real news.

To its credit, Google News removed News Hawk Review from its pages. A Google spokesman told the Times that the consultant violated terms of service by producing promotional pieces in the guise of news.

Next time you research something on the Internet, consider the source. Not all that is labeled “news” is really news. If you’ve never heard of the source, be very suspect. This sort of thing is more common than you might think – particularly in the run-up to national elections.

Clay

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