Local News’ PR Epidemic

Reporters of integrity quitting their jobs over what amount to unidentified ads in local news has prompted journalist groups to condemn “broadcast outlets using video news releases that are produced by pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers to look like news reports.” Emily Udell of In These Times has (9/18/08) more on the matter:

“We donâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t really know how big of a problem it isâ┚¬”and thatâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s part of the problem,â┚¬Ã‚ says Andy Schotz, chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee. “It blends into news coverage in a way that people donâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢t even know the source of the news theyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢re getting.” Eight broadcast reports by the Cleveland Clinic News Serviceâ┚¬”the PR arm of an Ohio healthcare providerâ┚¬”aired virtually unedited on 26 stations, according to an analysis published last year in the Columbia Journalism Review. Of those 26 stations, 23 were owned by Fox.

Udell notes the really devious nature of the segments: “These video news releases are often inserted seamlessly into reports produced by a stationâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s reporters.”

Listen to FAIR’s weekly radio program CounterSpin: Diane Farsetta on RTNDA and Video News Releases (10/27/06)