An Academic Look at Fake TV News

In his paper "Loath to admit: Pressures on ethical disclosure of news release sources," Australian academic Peter Simmons analyzes issues around video news releases (VNRs), or fake TV news. "When the source is not disclosed, news release material acquires the implied endorsement of a more credible and neutral party," he writes, placing ethical responsibility on both newsroom staff and PR practitioners. In response to PR and broadcast industry portrayals of VNRs as important to "the free flow of 'information,'" Simmons questions "the quality of the information flowing freely to the public." Reviewing the May 2005 Congressional testimony of then-Public Relations Society of America president Judith Phair, D S Simon Productions head Doug Simon, and Radio-Television News Directors Association president Barbara Cochran, Simmons notes, "The testimony did not include reference to the journalism profession's known resistance to be seen ... using public relations material. ... The resistance is important in discussions of journalists' disclosure of third party sources and the need for guidelines and regulation." He concludes, "Individual journalists and public relations practitioners perceive their work to be enhanced when news release material is used without disclosure."