The price of Internet integrity: Lower than you might think

By PatB
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

The Internet, and especially blogs, are quickly becoming recognized as a great source of debate and opinion on controversial topics.  Stories that begin in the mainstream media often spill over to blogs for discussion, and more and more often now, people form their own opinions after reading both sides of issues on blogs.

A perfect example of this is the debate over Comcast’s traffic shaping to suppress P2P applications.  Comcast ultimately stopped the practice and was fined by the FCC, but during the runup to the FCC hearings, many blogs, including this one, offered opinions on whether or not Comcast’s practices were against net neutrality or constituted normal traffic management.

I have written in this space previously that, in my opinion, what Comcast was doing was necessary as day to day management of their network.  What if it came out later that Comcast was paying me to write this on this blog?  (they didn’t.)  Wouldn’t that make you mad?  I know that it would make me mad if I found that such a biased piece was written on one of my favorite blogs.

But this is just what has been happening on other blogs and online newpapers, including The Harvard Crimson.  In this article here, author Mel King writes that FCC has been putting on a “dog and pony show” regarding Comcast’s traffic management.  Now he has been outed by CNET’s Declan McCullagh as a staunch supporter of net neutrality, and an opponent of federal legislation that would benefit Broadband Providers.  So why the opposing opinion piece for the Crimson?

According to McCullagh, its because he is a member of LawMediaGroup, a DC lobbying and public affairs firm that specializes in turning controversial issues into campaigns for corporate interests.  And Comcast hired LMG to campaign against the net neutrality message in the courts of public opinion.  According to LMG’s website, this is how they do it:

Most public affairs firms are “stovepipes” which specialize in discrete issues such as traditional lobbying, media buys, or often merely purchasing grassroots relationships with the clients’ funds.  By contrast, LMG uses a “political campaign model” that integrates expertise in the subject matter, message development, aggressive, research-driven paid and earned media, on-the-ground coalition building, preparation of analytical and other policy papers, and a host of next-generation services such as viral and online campaigns.  Our goal is to dominate the media environment on behalf of the client.

In order to be a blogger for one of these types of media lobbying firms, you have to keep it a secret, but the job could be lucrative.  Again, according to McCullagh, op-ed pieces on blogs or newspapers can earn about $750 bucks per article.  Not bad work if you can get it, I guess.  But I didn’t know integrity had such a low price tag.


3 Responses to The price of Internet integrity: Lower than you might think

  1. I guess these people write those article … sit back and think about how they changed the world for the better today …

    I hope really hope these people have trouble sleeping at night …

    Way to earn an honest living … loser

  2. This is a *lot* more common than you might think.

    The pattern is simple. The paid-for writer (an individual or a group) writes a series of pieces that sound reasonable, then they throw in a paid-for zinger. Since much of what they write is reasonable, the hope is you will expect the paid-for piece must also somehow be reasonable.

    Ran across this in the local political weblogs, first. There is a character who goes under the pseudonym "Jubal" when posting. He posts a lot. Sometimes the posts are somewhat reasonable. Other times they are not. Turns out "Jubal" is in fact Mathew Cunningham, whose business is "opinion management".

    Seems he is not alone.

    You can see a similar pattern in the postings of the CATO Institute – a series of reasonable notions, then a paid-for zinger. Their main paid-for theme seems to be "don't tax rich folks".

    Funny bit – they allowed comments at first. After I added a "this does not make sense" comment to one of their more blatant zingers, they turned off comments. :)

    Always did wonder what all those "institutes" based in Washington were about…

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