Working on a piece that raised questions about the American Red Cross disaster response, she says a boss told her, “We must do nothing to upset our corporate partners…until the stock splits.” (Parent company Viacom and CBS split in 2006). Meanwhile, she notes, “CBS This Morning” is airing blatant advertorials such as a three-minute segment pushing TGI Fridays’ all-you-can-eat appetizer promotion or four minutes plugging a Doritos taco shell sold at Taco Bell.
Reporters on the ground aren’t necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts. Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into “casting agents,” told “we need to find someone who will say…” that a given policy is good or bad. “We’re asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe,” she writes.
Reporting on the many green-energy firms such as Solyndra that went belly-up after burning through hundreds of millions in Washington handouts, Attkisson ran into increasing difficulty getting her stories on the air. A colleague told her about the following exchange: “They are pretty significant,” said a news exec. “Maybe we should be airing some of them on the ‘Evening News?’ ” Replied the program’s chief Pat Shevlin, “What’s the matter, don’t you support green energy?”
We’re reminded of getting a little worked up years ago when Sumner Redstone sold a trivial amount of stock as Rathergate was falling apart. Not a big deal to him, but it’s interesting to see how closely the news is monitored and controlled by the business types.