More Ethical Lapses for Local Media

bla-videotape.jpgI saw a couple of articles today about the use of Video News Releases (VNR) by local media. A VNR is basically a short video usually formatted to look like a news item you’d see on your local TV station. They attempt to look journalistic, but of course they’re produced for the sole purpose of promoting a product or service.

The first article was in the Wall Street Journal. It quotes some bits of a new report on the use of VNRs:

Although television stations and big broadcasters all say they have rules in place that prohibit using VNRs without disclosure, it appears that many outlets only pay lip service to the rules.

The latest damning news comes from another watchdog, the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin-based organization that tracked 36 video news releases for 10 months and found 77 television stations that used some or all of the footage without identifying the source. The stations cited range from small broadcasters to those owned by big media companies, including Viacom Inc., News Corp. and outlets owned by newspaper publishers New York Times Co. and Tribune Co.

So that brings us round to the local angle on this … did you see that segment on KTLA about phishing and how to protect yourself … well that was a VNR.

If your’e keeping track, here are some other recent posts on similar matters: LA Times blogger makes comments under pseudonyms, LA Observed was on the VNR watch a few weeks ago and of course KTLA’s most recent ethical lapse where morning anchors were taking freebies.

(photo credit – Dawn M Turner at morguefile)

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3 Replies to “More Ethical Lapses for Local Media”

  1. VNRs aren’t new. And they are exactly the same as press releases. They can be made to promote not just services or products, but also views or opinions. There was a fluff awhile back about certain California State Departments using VNRs about policy implementations, etc.

    As with print press releases, those who produce them are usually hoping that always time-crunched producers and editors will use the material whole-cloth, rather than as the basis for a story or a good jumping off point from which a reporter can research other sides, etc.

  2. You’re right, CD, VNRs are nothing new and they’re usually pretty easy to spot when it comes to the fluff pieces you’ll see at as the color pieces.

    Honestly, I don’t mind them if they’re re-edited and vetted properly. There’s nothing wrong with announcing an event or something and using provided footage.

    I’ve seen press releases used in the same fashion. In fact, I always prided myself when I was a publicist on being able to write a press release that would get published nearly verbatim. The trick was always to write it in the journalistic style instead of the hyperbolistic promotional-style.

    Max, I’m not sure I’ve ever watched KCAL news but it’s funny that you mention it because of that LA Observed post about KCBS and KCAL being told NOT to use them indicates that there was a problem.

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