One of the things the group that calls itself Every Child Matters did with its big budget for misinforming people with its recent report is hire a PR firm. Their work included a conference call where ECM briefed state officials so they all could coordinate their "message," and lots of calls to local newspapers touting state data (even as the report itself warns of the limits of those data).
Looks like the hired flacks are still hard at work.
Those flacks know that op ed editors want their submissions to be local – from the grassroots. So they've created a fake "local" op ed column, the equivalent of Astroturf. It's a template, available here. All you have to do is fill in the blanks! Here's how it begins:
STATE Can Do Better – Stopping Child Abuse Deaths
Too often, the simple joys of a child's life in CITY that many of us take for granted in our own families are far beyond the reach of even our closest neighbors.
Occurrences of child abuse and neglect in STATE are all too common. They affect me personally and professionally because
INSERT PERSONAL STORY OF CAREER; PERHAPS BRIEFLY COTE [sic] A RECENT HEART-WRENCHING CASE.
And then later:
While child abuse and neglect deaths total about five a day in the U.S., experts believe the real number may be as much as 50 percent higher due to inconsistent record-keeping and different definitions of abuse and neglect in the states. INSERT YOUR STATE-SPECIFIC FACTS FROM REPORT: NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN YOUR STATE WHO DIED OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT 2001-2007; CURRENT PER-CAPITA SPENDING TO ADDRESS AND PREVENT ABUSE/NEGLECT; HOW STATE COMPARES WITH REST OF NATION.
So right after the part where the generic op ed effectively admits it's impossible to really compare rates of child abuse deaths, the instructions are to do it anyway.
And then, at the very end, where you identify yourself:
NAME is TITLE of ORGANIZATION in CITY. Organization is INSERT BRIEF DESCRIPTION.
If it weren't so serious, it would be like playing a game of Mad Libs.
This is why I'm so fond of a policy they have at the Spokane Spokesman Review. They require anyone submitting an op ed to swear that he actually wrote it himself. Of course, that won't stop anyone from lying, but at least it's one small way to avoid being suckered by a PR firm offering the newspaper the best misinformation money can buy.