by YES! Staff

Growing Astroturf and cultivating reporters

The financial clout of the political lobbyists who bend lawmakers’ ears is well documented in their campaign contributions, which are disclosed as a matter of law. Less transparent is the investment in shaping media coverage. That’s because the nonprofit outfits that churn out press releases and put forward experts to comment for reporters’ stories are not required to disclose their funding sources. Kudos then to Ken Silverstein for a May 15 post at drawing a bead on Joe Kefauver, cited as a longtime Democrat and Obama supporter in a recent article published in the Orlando Sentinel titled “Growing Number of Dems Opposing EFCA.” Silverstein notes that the article failed to mention that Kefauver has “long and close ties” to Richard Berman, a prominent lobbyist and leading opponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to unionize. Or that Kefauver is a former lobbyist for Wal-Mart, “one of the vocal corporate opponents of EFCA.” The Orlando Sentinel reporter wouldn’t have had to dig too deep to learn that much. The website for Kefauver’s Edgewater Group lays it out: “Joe was the vice president of public affairs for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where he oversaw all state and local government matters for the world’s largest corporation. In his capacity there, Joe was responsible for prioritizing and developing the company’s legislative and political agenda, their interaction with governors, attorneys general, mayors and legislative leaders, as well as executing the company’s aggressive store expansion program.” — JG

Who needs ’em?

Bloomberg reports that, of 16 graduating seniors on the editorial board of the Harvard University Crimson, only three are seeking jobs in journalism, citing a downbeat job market and fears of layoffs. According to the post, “Of the Crimson’s last 10 managing editors, only two are working at newspapers: Javier Hernandez, Class of 2008, at the New York Times, and Rosalind Helderman, 2001, at the Washington Post.” Want to know the real reason? They’re spoiled. Consider this: The Harvard Crimson, founded in 1873, is the only daily newspaper in Cambridge, Mass.; it publishes three weekly tabs in addition to the daily broadsheet. It is a non-profit, fully independent of the university, and it owns its own presses. Its alumni include Michael Crichton, Sewell Chan, Daniel Ellsberg, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Casper Weinberger, Nicholas Kristof, Michael Kinsley, Jennifer 8. Lee, Susan Faludi and John F. Kennedy. The paper has won a dozen Pulitzers. And, you know, there are 16 editors. In very stark terms, any job in journalism right now would be a step down for Crimson editors. Too bad you can’t stay at Harvard forever, hey guys? — BC

Shield laws don’t apply to ‘online bloggers’

A circuit court judge in Illinois has ordered the Alton Telegraph to provide authorities with the identities of two people who posted comments about a murder investigation on the newspaper’s website. Madison County Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli issued the order on May 15, according to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Tognarelli declared the identities of those who posted three other comments about the murder investigation would not be disclosed because their comments appeared “irrelevant.” The Alton Telegraph fought the subpoenas, claiming the Illinois law shielding journalists covered the release of the names of the individuals who posted comments. In his decision, Tognarelli stated the law does not apply to “online bloggers.” Madison County Sheriff’s detectives obtained a subpoena on Sept. 18, seeking to question the five bloggers about their comments surrounding the beating death of a five-year-old boy in Cottage Hills. The judge ruled two of the bloggers posted information that might help investigators. The boyfriend of the murdered child has been charged with first-degree murder in the case, according to the Post-Dispatch. — KTB