Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, determined that video news releases (VNRs) touting the new Medicare law, which ran as news reports on some 40 stations, violated a ban on government funded "publicity and propaganda." The Hill notes, "VNRs are standard practice in the public-relations industry and local news reports often rely on them. ...
Video News Releases
The Public Relations Society of America has issued a statement saying that video news releases (VNRs) should no longer use signoffs like the one that got Karen Ryan into hot water: "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting." According to the PRSA statement, "This has caused some confusion among people who question whether someone who is not actually a reporter should be identified in a manner that could suggest that he or she is a journalist.
Journalism professor Jay Rosen has written a commentary about Karen Ryan, the public relations consultant who got caught posing as a reporter in a video news release produced for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to praise the Bush administration's controversial new Medicare bill.
Web journalist and novelist Daniel Price points out that here at the Center for Media & Democracy we have been sounding the alarm on Video News Releases for over a decade. Price writes that "thanks to the Medicare fake news flap (see 3/22 'spin of the day' below) America has been formally introduced to the Video News Release. Except they've been around for twenty years and we've already seen thousands of them. You know life is getting strange when even Jon Stewart can't handle the irony.
The General Accounting Office is investigating whether the Department of Health and Human Services' video news releases touting the new Medicare law constitute illegal "covert propaganda." Some PR pros think it's much ado about nothing: "VNRs have been around since the dawn of TV," said the
Since the December passage of the Medicare bill, "there have been a lot of questions about how the law will help older Americans and people with disabilities. Reporter Karen Ryan helps sort through the details." This is the suggested lead in for local stations running new video news releases prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services.
In a follow-up to events that we mentioned in May and discussed on the PR Watch Forum, former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite has filed a lawsuit against WJMK, a Florida producer of video news releases, seeking $25 million in damages and saying the company misled him and tarnished his reputation when it persuaded him to appear in videos that promoted prescription drugs and other products.
In response to an article by Melody Petersen in the New York Times, "CNN said yesterday that Aaron Brown, its nighttime news anchor, would not go forward with plans to become host of a series of corporate-sponsored videos that look like news and are broadcast on public television stations. ... A Boca Raton, Fla., production company, WJMK, recently hired Mr. Brown and Walter Cronkite, the former CBS News anchor, to serve as the hosts of a program called the American Medical Review.
"Aaron Brown of CNN, Walter Cronkite and other broadcast
journalists have been hired to appear in videos resembling
newscasts that are actually paid for by drug makers and
other health care companies, blurring the line between
"In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the ensuing war on terrorism, the news hole for video public relations shrunk dramatically," writes Paul Holmes, editor of public relations trade newsletter The Holmes Report. "Most of the major production and distribution companies canceled projects in the wake of the terrorist attacks, but in the months since then, the business has been getting back to normal." Michael Santorelli, co-founder of the video production company Dogmatic, told Holmes: "News stations have come to depend on us for content.