Video News Releases

An Ethical Look at Fake News

Jerry Dunklee (photo courtesy of John O'Dwyer)"I love Red Cross, but I don't trust them completely when they're the ones shooting the video," explained journalism professor and Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) ethics committee member Jerry Dunklee.

Dunklee was speaking at SPJ's recent convention, on a panel titled "Paid and Played: The Ethics of Using Video News Releases." His remarks focused on the ethical issues raised by VNRs. Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) executive director John Stauber and Jim Bayse of the firm Wiley Rein, which represents the Radio-Television News Directors Association, were also on the panel.

Much of the VNR debate is currently focused on legal and policy issues: speculation over what the Federal Communications Commission really meant by fining Comcast for five undisclosed VNRs, and what the agency is likely to do next. But it's also important to address the ethical implications of VNRs. Dunklee did so by relating sometimes abstract guidelines to real-world situations he faced as a reporter and news director in cable and broadcast television.

Submitted by Diane Farsetta on

Diane Farsetta, Center for Media and Democracy
October 11, 2007

In Brief

Despite mounting pressure from the public and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), television stations continue to air sponsored public relations videos without disclosure. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) identified three recent instances where a single television station aired video news releases (VNRs), which are sponsored segments designed to mimic genuine news reports.

WGTU-29 Cultivates News Viewers for John Deere

Submitted by Diane Farsetta on

The alert for a video news release (VNR) titled "A Tractor That Drives Itself" helpfully offers the following news hook: "Reduced tillage involves less fuel consumption when a tractor runs over the field fewer times and saves indirectly by reducing fertilizer requirements."

Story on High-Definition Systems Lacks Clarity

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Lori Puckett's job title at WGTU-29 (Traverse City / Cadillac, Mich.) is Production & Promotions Manager, but she also anchors the television station's evening news show. WGTU's website credits Puckett for her "creative and unique advertising concepts."

Station Lends News Viewers to Capital One

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What are teenagers interested in? Music, friends, video games ... and discussing financial matters with their parents.

TV "Expert" Doesn't Disclose His Fellow Travelers

Florida's Broward County paid a travel writer $10,000 to mention Fort Lauderdale, "during a summer media tour that took him to 16 news stations in 37 days," reports the Miami Herald. Joel Widzer "seemed to have little trouble finding stations willing to interview him and air the footage of Fort Lauderdale's coral reefs and spas that the public relations firm, Plus Media, provided producers. A follow-up report ...



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