March 26, 2005

All the news that misfits 

NPR has a nice story on the manufacture of news via so-called 'video news releases.' Back in the day I worked as a PR guy cranking out written news releases on behalf of community organizations. Editors would read these and decide maybe there's a story there. If so it would be assigned to a reporter, who would do what reporters are supposed to do: research it and try to find the truth, or at least some semblance of balance. With video news releases, TV stations who have cut their news staff to the bone can simple run the package. No messy research or editing required. So what if the story comes prepackaged from a corporation or government agency? If it looks good on the air, it makes the cut. Fortunately the White House would never stoop to such deception, and if it did, our stellar local TV news operations would never air prepackaged political propaganda without providing balance and a disclaimer. Unless I'm wrong, which according to the New York Times I am. See "THE MESSAGE MACHINE: How the Government Makes News; Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged News" from the March 13th Sunday Times. It singles out a certain Champaign-Urbana network TV affiliate as an example of the many stations who simply plug-and-play these White House video news releases. Are we shocked yet?

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