An "outraged" Society of Professional Journalists called on the Pentagon to stop the practice of using military analysts on TV and other media as a "Trojan Horse" to carry the White House's message about the war in Iraq -- a story first reported by The New York Times.
The SPJ also called on news outlets to hold those analysts to the same kinds of ethical standards on financial ties and conflicts of interest that they would any of their reporters.
“The Pentagon’s practices to co-opt military analysts should end and be replaced by an honest, open dialogue with representatives of the media about the facts of the war,” SPJ president Clint Brewer said in a statement Friday. “In addition, the country’s news organizations should disclose the ties of their analysts both past and present. Moving forward, America’s news media should hold these analysts to the same ethical tests they would any journalist.”
This comes as the Federal Communications Commission is investigating complaints that news outlets might have violated sponsorship-identification rules by not clearly revealing their analysts' ties to the Pentagon or defense contractors.
The Times obtained Pentagon documents that described the analysts, who were given Pentagon briefings and talking points, as "surrogates" and "message force multipliers" for the administration's views.
The SPJ suggested that networks need to conduct "ethical autopsies" on coverage, “explaining and analyzing how sources were selected, what perspectives they conveyed and to whom they were beholden,” using its own code of ethics as a guide.