The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

7 April 2006

That "fake news" stuff

This Raw Story report on so-called Video News Releases has been getting plenty of airing, and deservedly so. Noting that a prime offender was KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, Matt Deatherage said: "KOKH doesn't seem to know that there's supposed to be a line between news and advertising."

But if none of these prepackaged propaganda pieces is news, neither is the Center for Media and Democracy study referenced by Raw Story: VNRs have been oozing into newsrooms for two decades. Medialink Worldwide is reported (by themselves, anyway) to have invented the VNR way back in 1986; TV Guide did features on VNRs, which they described as "fake news," in 1992 and 1993. The G. W. Bush administration was caught issuing such things on its own two years ago.

None of this excuses the current batch, of course. But we shouldn't see this as a new and insidious attempt to influence the public; it's an old and insidious attempt to influence the public.

Posted at 7:28 AM to Dyssynergy

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'" George Orwell-1984

Posted by: Diane at 7:48 AM on 7 April 2006

You're a bit of a lefty, so you don't see that all sides are doing this... at least I think you don't.

I work in the video business. Manipulation and lying is the commonplace. We have a couple of black men who are our token executives... well, at least in video. Every video we make is diverse. It's just the companies that aren't. One of those black men makes a very good living being the token black executive of a whole mess of corporations.

And, Mike Adams has reported recently that the University of North Carolina's website is populated with pictures that present an image of a campus that is 45% black. The reality... less than 8%.

The left (and, believe me, that is corporate America) is doggedly producing puff pieces that pretend that diversity (their great God) actually exists in institutional America.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas at 11:00 AM on 7 April 2006

This strikes me as too glib an excuse, CG, kind of like saying "It's not news that [a given authority figure] was lying because people have been lying for centuries." The very fact that video news releases have been around for decades only emphasizes that serious news organizations should have it ingrained within their culture not to run them as news items, and not to run them at all without disclaimers as to their origin.

Of course, putting "serious news organization" and "KOKH" (or "Sinclair") in the same sentence is ridiculous on its face, but this just emphasizes that.

And for the "everyone's doing it" crowd, take another look. KOKH is the only TV news operation in the state that runs these commercials as if they were news stories. The others all managed to figure it out.

Posted by: Matt at 2:50 PM on 7 April 2006

I didn't excuse KOKH. ("None of this excuses the current batch, of course.") I merely pointed out that this was nothing that hadn't already been happening for the last twenty years. And dubious news judgment at local TV stations is about as rare as rocks.

Posted by: CGHill at 2:56 PM on 7 April 2006

The study, alas, does not cover a twenty-year period, so it's impossible to refute that it's been happening for twenty years. But the facts show that it didn't happen in the last nine months at any of the local stations, or even at any stations in the entire state of Oklahoma.

Except one, where it happened at least six times.

Posted by: Matt at 4:12 PM on 7 April 2006

It seems like KOKH is merely saving some overhead. OKC's other stations do crappy, zero-content airheadedness using their own blow-dried news muppets, while KOKH uses someone else's.

Posted by: Brett at 4:59 PM on 7 April 2006