Monday, February 27, 2006

CIRM On The Mark With Media Info

The California stem cell agency moved adroitly last week to stay on top of the media agenda in connection with the beginning of today's trial challenging the very existence of the institute.

Nicole Pagano, a spokeswoman for CIRM, released a notice to the media on Feb. 23 containing the various times, names and basic details of the trial. It was the kind of stuff that rarely makes its way in an obvious fashion into news stories but is quite helpful to reporters, particularly out-of-town reporters and those not well-versed in the issue.

The email notification went beyond those matters to include attachments that will help set the tone of the reporting during the trial and expose reporters to information that they may not have seen until now. The attachments included an 1,862-word rundown on the key attorneys in the case, including the CIRM opponents; a 1,378-word background paper on the organizations involved, again including the CIRM opponents; a 1,796-word timeline on the litigation, and a copy of the 42-page filing by the state on behalf of CIRM.

The material was generally straightforward, quoting from the web sites of CIRM's opponents, even using some of their special terminology such as "the unborn." When sources were not specifically cited, it appeared that the information was the result of pretrial research into the opposing attorneys and their public records.

All of this is quite helpful to reporters, even if they don't use it immediately in stories. The information also has subtle effects that accrue to CIRM's benefit. It tends to make CIRM the lead source for information on the trial and set the agenda for the terms of the public debate about the trial. It tends to create an aura of authority for CIRM, that contrasts favorably to its opponents, at least so far. The information also tends to bolster CIRM's contention that the main motivation of its opponents is religious as opposed to a desire for good government and policy. That kind of background is likely to filter into many news stories.

Providing such information certainly comes under the legitimate functions of any state agency, although some might argue whether it is appropriate for CIRM to release short biographies of opposing attorneys.

Nothing similar was available from CIRM's foes.

As of this writing, the background information is not available on CIRM's website. Presumably, you can receive it by sending an email to If that doesn't work, send a request to us,, and we will forward the information to you.

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