CNN Senior Executive Producer
It happened again. My on-the-verge-of-50 savvy and life experience could not prevent my jaw from dropping. I'm aware lobbyists have influence in Congress. But this was another case of "I didn't know what I didn't know."
Imagine a member of Congress saying publicly, for the record: “A lobbyist for a major pharmaceutical company has convinced me that ….” Well, we don’t really need to finish such a statement. “A lobbyist convinced me” is not the quickest route to credibility. And yet ...
And yet, we learned in this Sunday’s New York Times that more than a dozen members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, entered statements in the Congressional Record that were written by a lobbyist.
According to The New York Times, the language was spoon fed to congressional staffers, Democrats and Republicans, by a prominent pharmaceutical lobbyist, and regurgitated, word for word in most cases, by the members of Congress themselves. Regurgitated without any attribution.
The New York Times was apparently not able to find out whether these members of Congress knew their words had come directly from lobbyists, or whether the words were simply relayed to them by staff members who did not mention that salient point about the source to their bosses.
Thank goodness this is an aberration.
NY Times page 24: "Asked about the Congressional statements," a lobbyist said, "This happens all the time. There is nothing nefarious about it."
That's what I get for reading the jump page.
I'm particularly sensitive to the importance of attribution, because I'm part of a large, experienced team at CNN which spends much time every day trying to ensure that we attribute our information as transparently as possible so you, our audience, can weigh the words of the people we put on our air. That's one of many ways we hopefully earn your trust.
WHO CAN YOU TRUST?
This week, as part of my series to expose the weak foundation of the 18-49 audience demo before I get kicked out of it next month, I'll be writing about the connection between age and trust. I'm already learning in my reporting for this series that the "influencers" in our audience, those of you who are trusted in your community, are a key to creating A NEW DEMO FOR A NEW AGE.
And so, it's critical to get a handle on who SHOULD be trusted as influencers. How do we know who to trust?
THE TRUST ANTENNA
One thing I can tell you.
Your antenna for who to trust gets sharper with age. Maybe that's because by the time you've approached 50, as I have, you've been suckered at least once in your career.
Tomorrow I'll reveal the worst time I was suckered and what happened to me as a result. I know who suckered me. It's public information. He's a prominent writer. He's written about the incident. But I don't think he knows I'M the one he suckered. I'm in the process of trying to track him down to finally have a little talk with him.
I won't give up easily. Trust me.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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