Friday, September 21, 2012

MassMedia: You Know News, But Do You Know Fake News? (U3-P1) [VID]

You know news, but do you know fake news?

Watch the following clip from a local TV news cast.

When watching the above clip from a news broadcast what are your reasonable assumptions?  That the people interviewed are local people?  That this is a local story?  That the reporter did the interviews and wrote the story?  That this is real news?

Now, check out this next video which was written and produced by independent video company and funded Quest Diagnostics, a company that runs lab testing centers around the U.S. where allergy testing is done. 

What did you notice?  What if you started both video clips at about the same time?  Try it. Start the bottom clip, wait a few seconds and start the top clip.  Notice any difference?

The second clip you saw is an example of what is called a video news release (some background).

"Video news releases or VNRs (also referred to as fake TV news) are segments designed to be indistinguishable from independently-produced news reports that are distributed and promoted to television newsrooms. TV stations incorporate VNRs into their newscasts, rarely alerting viewers to the source of the footage. While government-funded VNRs have been most controversial, most VNRs are paid for by corporations; non-governmental organizations also put out VNRs" (SourceWatch).

Check out the following video.

KMSP-9 Helps Rev Up Convertible Sales

If you are interested, see another video comparing a local news cast with a VNR on YouTube or check out even more examples of VNRs and local news stories from PRWatch.

In the clip above, Pakman, mentions the FCC's sponsorship identification rules. Here is one rule/law.

"... the Communications Act of 1934, ... requires broadcasters to disclose to their listeners or viewers if matter has been aired in exchange for money, services or other valuable consideration. The announcement must be aired when the subject matter is broadcast. The Commission has adopted a rule, ... which sets forth the broadcasters' responsibilities to make this sponsorship identification" (FCC). 

How does this apply in the VNR situation?

So, corporations put out VNRs and they sometimes show up as news.

Now, to what extent are VNRs used in politics or as political propaganda?

Note: The above is a clip from a 2011 documentary titled Programming the Nation? directed by Jeff Warrick.

Is the use of VNRs as news appropriate?  Is it ethical?   Who is at fault?

Spotted any examples of VNRs airing as news in the past few months?

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  1. I learned about VNRs in my PR class and in my Communications Law class, so I’ve learned to recognize them most of the time. Several older people in my family and community frequently ask me to research things for them regarding illnesses, vaccines, treatments, etc. that they’ve recently heard about on the news. Most of the times, it turns out that it wasn’t a news story, it was a VNR. But because they see it during a news story, or on a “reputable” channel. I can’t remember the name of the vaccine or even the name of the commercial, but it shows a woman holding her baby and it says something about how you can be making your baby sick just by holding it and everyone should get some new vaccine to protect their children, and it scared me to death. I looked it up on the internet, I talked to my doctor about it and that’s when I found out that what I’d seen was probably a VNR. There shouldn’t be a subtle hint or statement somewhere within the story or a logo indicating that it isn’t a “real” news story. There should be a clear statement that says “the following is an advertisement for so-and-so pharmaceutical company”, which most of them are. And when fines are levied, they should be substantial.

    1. I think the example that you mention is about whooping cough.
      What is the difference between a VNR hidden in a newscast and the whooping cough example you bring up?
      If you are interested I've put together a collection of YouTube clips that show this commercial and also recent news stories about whooping cough. Now I wonder if the news stories are in any way VNRs? See here:
      This actually seems to be a serious health concern?

      Another thought: The whooping cough commercial seems to be another PSA (public service announcement), but it is funded by Sanofi Pasteur, a vaccine company. Do other viewers see this as a typical PSA put out by state or federal government? So, what if this is funded by Sanofi? Still important health information?

    2. That's why I get confused. Shouldn't we take into consideration who is sponsoring the VNR, PSA, etc.? I thought WebMD was a relatively reliable source of information until I found out that there have been questions regarding their recommendations or positive attitudes toward one medicine over the other and their sponsorship of the medicines WebMD deems "better". They were also investigated regarding their financial connection to a pharmaceutical company. So who can you trust? Even when I go to the doctor I am often given free samples of medicines to try. Do I really need these medicines, or is there a connection between my "need" for the medicine and the meeting my doctor just had with the pharmaceutical rep who passed me on the way into the office?

  2. As to whether or not VNRs are a form of subliminal messaging, as was said in Jeff Warwick’s video, it might be time to broaden our concept of subliminal and broaden our concept of conspiracy to answer that question. If the general population can’t tell the difference between a legitimate news story and a VNR, then aren’t they being subliminally conspired against?

  3. Alot of times when I look at the news, I don't just go with what I hear. I do additional research to see if the story is true or even partially true. Sometime the news can tell some of the truth.A lot if people believe anything that the news tell them. In the small community that I live in, it's funny how fast "news" gets around. All you need is one person to hear it and the story is twisted up in just a few minutes. So I think it is important to do additional research when it come to the news.

  4. In my opinion, the biggest problems with legtimate news organizations using VNRs is that the underlyng intent of the company funding the report may be unknown, and in the amount of verification of facts the news organization conducts pror to broadcast. This is completely different from using news or informational content distributed by wire services, which can usually be verified.

  5. Check out: Conan Skewers Local TV News, Again: Copycat Anchors Report on Dog Social Network

    Conan does this regularly on his show.


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