Managing the News: The History and Constitutionality of the Government Spin Machine
This Note grows out of two recent efforts by the Bush administration to shape media coverage of its programs: secret payments to columnists and the dissemination of fake press reports. It explores the little-studied history of such covert news management tactics and shows that, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, such attempts to manage the media by stealth did not originate with the Bush administration. Though these tactics may be time-honored, they have continually sparked criticism that they compromise the independence of the media. This Note further analyzes the treatment of government news management under current law. After showing why the regulatory regime is irredeemably flawed, this Note contends that judicial intervention is necessary to address core constitutional concerns. Specifically, it concludes that news management tactics that conceal the government’s role as a source are unconstitutional forms of viewpoint discrimination that violate the First Amendment.