PR - Crisis and Management

Thursday, March 16, 2006

VNR's - The Fake News Cycle

The public relations industry has been fighting an uphill battle for the past few years concerning the ethical use of video news releases. Video news releases are typically 90 seconds in length and utilized by large organizations seeking enhanced recognition for their names, products, services and causes are the primary clients. Organizations prepare VNR's and send them to news stations in hope that the VNR will receive coverage and gain publicity for the organization. The problem arises when stations use the VNRs without saying who created them and portraying them as actual news. Over 90% of VNRs aren't correctly identified.

Typically a VNR includes tools for "customization" that allow and encourage news stations to pass the story off as their very own product. This is considered unethical but has become common practice for journalists. PR Watch sites the 5 following steps as the process by which a VNR comes from the drawing board to the six o'clock news.
1) Conception - client has a message they want to get out to the public. They hire media consultants to find the best way to turn their product, service or agenda into a newsworthy item.
2) Creation - the client employs a VNR production company to shoot a fully-polished 1-2 minute "news" feature. Although the VNR typically comes with scripted narration, the "reporter" never appears on screen
3) Delivery - the VNR is distributed to hundreds of newsrooms by satellite, hard copy, or network news feeds. Producers in top markets are often pitched individually by the publicists who created the VNR
4) Assimilation - At each TV station, a producer decides if the VNR is interesting, relevant, and journalistic, enough to be included in their broadcast. If so, they'll typically customize the VNR by adding or removing soundbites, inserting station-branded text overlays, and replacing the narration with the familiar voice of their own reporter
5) Showtime - The VNR is seamlessly blended into the newscast without attributing the original source of the story. Countless viewers are duped into believing they're watching an investigative news report when in reality they're getting a subtle dose of corporate or government propaganda.

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