Monday, February 6, 2017

Bail Insurance Companies Getting Into Fake News?

Man, I never thought I’d ever use such a stupid term as “fake news,” and my dad knew Nixon.

 But recently I’ve seen the bail insurance company posts with all these stories about how horrible everything is in New Jersey, and I noticed that they were all coming from one source – Shore News Network. I mean, it was literally the only outfit saying these things, and the things it was saying were pretty much the opposite of what I was hearing both from people high up and on the ground in New Jersey. 

So I checked the source. On its face, Shore News Network looks a bit like a legitimate news organization. But then I realized that it’s really just one blogger and a couple of staffers. This is how the Shore News Network describes itself: 

The Shore News Network is a news collective that ties global news providers with fair and balanced local community news at the Jersey Shore. In operation since 2008, the Shore News Network is an open-public news source that allows news content creators at the Jersey Shore a place to safely publish their news in a manner that is free of editorial distortion. 

Okay, I’ve been around awhile, and so I know that when someone talks about being “fair and balanced,” they’re probably feeling defensive. It’s like when you have to constantly tell people you’re cool.

 And when someone talks about “open-public news” with stuff from “news content creators,” I know exactly what’s going on. People provide stuff that’s not “news” (even though they think it should be), and it ends up kind of looking like “news” because the blog calls itself a “news” source and uses the word “news” in its name.

 In this article, the author describes Source News Network as a “GOP aligned political commentary blog.” So that’s all it is. A blog. Like this one. Well, not completely like this one because I don’t claim to be news and I don’t take any money.

 This all reminds me of when the bail insurance companies practically ran ALEC, the nefarious black-bag group with members like the tobacco companies hell bent on teaching kids how to smoke. Hey, I’m not kidding about the smoking thing – just read this.

 The bail insurance companies were super deep into ALEC, and before we outed them, they used the ALEC machinery to boost money bail whenever and however they could. I remember one time a bail insurance dude said in a speech that he had drafted an article questioning the efficacy of pretrial release agencies, but “got [ALEC] to print it as an ALEC piece because we didn’t want it to come from a bail bonding organization – we wanted it to look like it came from some neutral, political source.” Not too smart to brag about it in a speech, but pretty slippery stuff, huh?

 Oh, and hey, bail agents, the fact that the insurance companies stick the  Shore News “news” on their websites isn’t just to sway public opinion in New Jersey. It’s also designed to make you think that somehow the bail reform train is falling off the tracks so you’ll keep sending them all that money.

 You get it, right?  It’s . . . supposed . . . to . . . give . . . you . . . hope . . . so . . . you . . . won’t . . . question . . . their . . . strategy.  

 In fact, consider this. One of the bail insurance lobbyists posted something just yesterday claiming that bail reform in New Jersey was all messed up, trying to spin a message that said, “Hey, it’s okay, because pretty soon bail reform will go away.” But underneath that post was another one with a frantic comment saying, “Bail reform is everywhere – it’s closing down offices – we need help, money, research, etc.” That comment summed it up. Bail reform isn’t going away.

 By the way, that same post also tried to give a bit of hope by saying that the New Jersey Council on Local Mandates would soon be giving a favorable ruling on New Jersey bail reform. Well, guess what? They gave that ruling in December and it wasn’t favorable to the industry.  

 Yeah, I know we live in 2017, and so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when news is manufactured to suit some partisan, moneyed interest. But it shouldn’t be that way, you know? News should be news. I figure this whole thing is linked to some big master plan the insurance companies developed with that PR firm they hired.

 All in all, this whole Shore News Network thing makes me think that something is smelly on the Jersey shore. Free of editorial distortion, maybe, but still really smelly.