The National Journalism Center and Philip Morris

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The National Journalism Center and Philip Morris

An internal memo from Philip Morris(PM), the world's largest private tobacco company, explained the role and benefits to the company of working with the National Journalism Center (NJC). “The group was developed to train budding journalists in free market political and economic principles. As a direct result of our support we have been able to work with alumni of this program … about 15 years worth of journalists at print and visual media throughout the country … to get across our side of the story … which has resulted in numerous pieces consistent with our point of view,” the strategy paper stated. (Note: the "..." breaks are in the original and the above citation is unedited).

In a 1993 memo, Philip Morris discussed an NJC symposium on Clinton's health care plan. While the symposium was “going to highlight the numerous problems of the administration’s plan including funding (FET)”, Philip Morris canvassed the possibility of additional spin-off from the event. (FET is the acronym for the Federal Excise Tax on tobacco).

“Generate additional publicity on the symposia by issuing a special edition of Consumers' Research magazine on health care. The magazine could serve as a credible lobbying material and be distributed to grassroots organizations opposed to the administration’s plan. The magazine would be a means to document the highlights of the conference for those who were unable to attend the forum”, the PM memo stated.

PM was willing to help with funding too, though not overtly from the tobacco industry. “Consumers’ Research could be supported from food and beer product advertising in the magazine or by purchase of copies of the magazine,” the memo stated. [1]

Consumers' Research certainly took an interest in PM's pet issues. A PM memo reported that "with respect to ETS, two feature articles in Consumers' Research magazine were published that challenged the lung cancer and heart disease health claims. Consumers' Research also publiched a story that was critical of the regulatory decisions made by the EPA," the report stated.[2]

Another memo, issued by PM the following year, reported on its unfolding work with the NJC and its alumni. “We also co-sponsored in December a policy mini-briefing on health care for a broad cross section of the Center’s Alumni Council, and are now working with the Journalism Center in the development of a major health care policy conference (tentatively scheduled for late April/early May) that will debunk the myths of the Clinton plan, explain the ill-advised proposals to fund any such plan with excise taxes, and promote alternative, market-driven plans,”, an internal PM strategy stated.

“The forum will be chaired by Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), and will have considerable participation from legislators, media and friendly policy group personell,” it noted.

Another internal PM memo, explained the “formula for pro-active media relations within the conservative community” developed by one of its executive, Dr. Thomas J. Borelli.

“Dr Borelli has developed his network through persistence, the use of mutual friends/acquaintances to make appropriate introductions and, when necessary, by cold-calling. The process takes a long time to reach fruition, and the benefits sometimes come in the unseen form of a negative story that isn’t printed or advance notice of a difficult reporter,”, the 1997 memo noted.

Identifying “third-party spokespeople”, as one of the groups of the contacts that could be cultivated, the memo cited Borelli’s work with the National Journalism Center as an example. “The key is to commit to the background research which will link individuals with relevant causes, and then cultivate the relationships of those individuals. An example here is Dr Borelli’s relationship with the National Journalism Center,”, the memo explained.

“A small organization devoted to cultivating conservative, professional journalists from students and young writers, the NJC publishes “Consumers Research Magazine,” a conservative publication with limited circulation. The relationship with this organization has given Dr Borelli entrée to a number of the NJC’s graduates, many of whom have become part of his network of conservative media contacts,” it explained.

While time spent cultivating writers at small publications could easily be dismissed as less than cost-effective, Borelli thought otherwise. “Publications like “Consumer Research”, “Reason” and “Science” serve as resources for story ideas for the mainstream media; therefore, the ability to influence journalists at these more targeted outlets is often as important as contact with more prominent publications,”, the memo explained.[3]

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