Listening exercise:
NBC Nightly News: on White House PR

Bush Fake News Blitz

News reports indicate that the Bush administration's use of fake "news" to promote its agenda appears more widespread than previously understood –
and that the administration is thumbing its nose at Congress by ignoring Government Accountability Office findings.
Link to the Windows Media video here:

     Media news is supposed to be as objective and neutral as possible, and not function as propaganda or advertising for any particular political party, person, or special interest. In actual practice, this is nearly impossible. Every news organization will tend to produce stories in support of the political views of the owners of that organization, the people who pay everybody's salaries. So we must always consider the source when reading or listening to any kind of media report.
     There are however some basic ground rules that everybody is expected to follow. One of these is that news organizations should not post or air news reports from a source that is known to lack objectivity for whatever reason, unless they clearly identify them as such. For example, they shouldn't post or report commercial advertising and disguise it as "news". You may find this assignment a bit difficult, but it has a very important message for all of us to think about.

White House
to struggle with
public relations effort
Middle East
here at home
to perfect the craft
to be disguised as
to get a lot of air time
Andrea Mitchell
available to
on the Web
TV stations
across the country
upbeat reports on
drinking water
awkward and difficult
to change with...
positive interviews
to vote
political and religious books
once banned
oppressive regime
Saddam Hussein
to shoot (a report)
to revel in
as much as they did
farm prices
to run a story
local stations
to extol
to reach (people)
Bob Ellison
agriculture secretary
to be distributed by
the administration
PR firms
Government Accountability Office
to warn
for purposes of
to be banned
clearly labeled
to be shown "as is"
to re-record
government scripts
to make them sound more local
ought to
Justice Department
to rule
video news releases
to have been in use for years
to go back to
Clinton White House
to start a practice
a quarter of a billion dollars
twice as much
no matter who does it
television news leaders
not ethical
to come from an outside source
to be clearly labeled as to the origin of...
to discourage
to be provided by
non-news organizations
under limited circumstances
to be approved by
to disclose to
to spin the news
to produce the stories itself

Listening comprehension questions:
1. Briefly summarize the main content of this news report.
2. What do you think is the motivation of the Bush administration for producing its own news videos? Try to think deeply on this before answering, and don't just give a short, superficial reaction.
3. Which other US president produced its own videos for release to news organizations? Why do you think he did this?
4. Why do you think these "news reports" are often not labeled as having been produced and released by the White House? What does this say about the media which broadcast the White House-produced "news"?
5. Why is news that is "prepackaged for purposes of publicity or propaganda" banned? If it is to be used, what must be done?
6. Who do you think might be influenced most by "prepackaged" White House news videos that are not labeled as such?
7. Do you think labeling the White House-produced videos can make a difference in how the news is evaluated by listeners? If so, how big a difference do you think it can make?
8. What does "to spin the news" mean?
9. What does the reporter say about NBC's own use of "prepackaged" news?
10. When you hear or read the news, do you wonder how accurate or objective it is? What can you do to get as accurate and objective news as possible?