SPJ objects to bogus news reports and their use by TV newsrooms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:Gary Hill, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman, at 651-642-4437 or firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Society of Professional Journalists today decried the Bush administration’s use of fake television news reports and the professional laziness of the news organizations that have picked up these and similar video press releases without traditional journalistic editing and responsibility.
The dissemination and uncritical use of public-relations videos masquerading as legitimate news coverage mislead the public and undermine the credibility of journalists. Both the government officials who use this deceptive promotional tool and the journalists who have long acquiesced in this and similar practices are doing a grave disservice to the public interest.
It has become all too common for marketers to adopt the style of television news reporting to push their products. The Bush administration’s use of fake TV news reports to praise the changes it made in the Medicare law is only the latest example, but also among the worst, because it uses taxpayer dollars. The technique is to employ individuals or firms with television production expertise to crank out “video news releases” that are then usually distributed by satellite, free of charge to newsrooms across the country. The production values are high and sometimes the items are actually newsworthy.
SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Gary Hill, director of investigations for KSTP-TV in St. Paul, Minn., wrote the following in a commentary about the fake reports:
“The temptation, especially for smaller newsrooms with limited staff and resources, is enormous. Record the feed, copy the suggested `lead-in’ for your anchor to read and drop the item in your newscast. Suddenly a two-minute hole in the newscast is filled and no one is the wiser. There in lies the problem. You’ve just pulled the wool over your viewers’ eyes and allowed someone with a product or point of view to sell to hijack your newscast. You’ve voluntarily surrendered your editorial control -- and your credibility -- without a fight, without even a whimper for that matter.”
Hill’s complete commentary follows.
The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. SPJ is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, and based in Indianapolis, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed public, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.