[T]he NSF--a federal agency that funds twenty percent of all federally supported, non-medical basic research in the United States--is now "underwriting" a wide array of media projects. Some of these are fairly traditional in nature. For example, the NSF has provided major funding for a number of PBS reports and plays no role in the editorial process or creating the final product. In partnerships with U.S. News & World Report and LiveScience, however, the outlets are posting content created by the NSF, researchers, or public information officers (all of which is labeled as having come from the NSF). There are also a few miscellaneous projects, such as Science Nation, a video series produced by members of CNN’s former science team (which the network axed last December); a recent panel event with Discover magazine; The Discovery Files, a series of podcasts that air on about 1,500 commercial radio stations in the U.S.; and Science 360, a Web site which aggregates all NSF-generated content (which, being publicly funded, is available to anybody that wants to use it).No wonder "it is now 'effectively BBC policy' to stifle critics of the consensus view on global warming." There's nothing wrong with reporting on bureaucrats with an agenda--but sponsorship or reprinting Federal press releases should be attributed. Especially when strong-arming is the best a bureaucrat (or a scientist) can do.
A number of audience members stood up to challenge [Jeff] Nesbit [NSF's Public Affairs Director], arguing that the NSF is dangerously blurring the lines between journalism and PR, and is attempting to "disguise" publicity as objective reporting. Higham, the panel’s moderator, also asked whether or not it is "healthy for science journalism to be supported by NSF."
To his credit, Nesbit, a former journalist, seems to be well aware that the NSF’s media endeavors pose a threat to journalism. "We realize that there is high risk," he said in response to Higham’s question, "but at this point I would say that it’s a necessity."
(via Watts Up With That?, Maggie's Farm)