Pundit payola

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Pundit payola is a catch phrase to describe the practice of paying commentators and news pundits to promote points of view, programs or ideologies determined by the sponsors.

In politics

U.S. conservative commentator Armstrong Williams exemplified this when he received money from the U.S. Department of Education to promote the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. [1] Other U.S. conservative commentators caught in the pundit payola limelight include Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus. [2] [3]

In telecommunications

In May 2006, the New York Post reported that "major U.S. newspapers often quote Jeff Kagan -- regarded as one of the most influential telecommunications analysts -- but invariably leave out the fact that he is paid by many companies in the industry to offer his comments to the media." [1]

Kagan's web site describes him as a "'fee-based' analyst" who "gives interviews, analysis and insights to the media for free, and charges everyone else." Sprint, Verizon and BellSouth are among the companies that have hired Kagan. "Kagan admits he is rarely asked by reporters if he is being paid by the companies he is speaking about," according to the NY Post. "He said he is more frequently asked if he has an investment relationship with a particular company, and does not hold stock in the companies he counts as clients." [2]

Telecom analyst Scott Cleland -- "a frequent critic of Google" -- receives funding from such Google competitors as AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Microsoft. In 2008, Cleland released a controversial report "alleging that Google 'is by far the largest user of Internet bandwidth,' the company's share of bandwidth usage is rising rapidly, and its bandwidth use 'is orders of magnitude greater than its payment for its cost.'" Not surprisingly, Google disputed the report, but independent voices like Free Press' Tim Karr also faulted what he called Cleland's "payola punditry." [4] [5]


While journalists doubling as public relations agents is one way to garner favourable media coverage, other strategies are also used in an attempt to court journalists. In June 2005 Hyundai's Australian boss, Bong Gou Lee, announced a special offering for Australian motoring journalists attending a prelaunch preview of the Sonata. "Half price for journalists, tonight only." A number of journalists provided Hyundai staff with their preferred models and colours.[3]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Greg Toppo, "Report: Education Dept.'s PR funds need oversight", USA Today, September 9, 2005.
  2. Howard Kurtz, "Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract," Washington Post, January 26, 2005.
  3. Eric Boehlert, "Third Columnist Caught with Hand in the Bush Till," Salon, January 27, 2005.
  4. "Google Critic Paid By Microsoft," National Journal's "Tech Daily Dose," June 16, 2009.
  5. Tim Karr, "Sock Puppet Redux," MediaCitizen, February 14, 2007.

External resources

External articles