If you've been wondering who and what influences the news that ends up on your doorstep and your computer screen, FAIR's  (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) annual report  should be required reading. Actually, it should be required for all of us. Consider this promo quote from a PR firm  included in the report:
We can get five reporters a month to do news stories about your product. If you want to be interviewed by 10 to 20 reporters per month, we can arrange that, too. . . . Media Relations, Inc. has placed tens of thousands of news stories on behalf of more than 1,000 clients.
The report includes sections on government interests' influence on the news (like the Abu Ghraib story being held two weeks before publication at Pentagon request). It also describes how industry bigshots control what makes it onto the page (such as a Bloomberg News  report that was purged from the website and replaced with a more sanitized version at the request of a financial industry leader). And then there's the issue of "prominent experts" lending their names to ghost-written op-ed columns—often placed by PR firms and industry. (Media critic Danny Schechter wrote about this phenomenon for TomPaine.com  recently.)
Though it's clearly preaching to the choir to tell readers of TomPaine.com that we need to think critically about mainstream news, it's still worth your time to read the report. And then tell a friend.