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Arment Dietrich

How the Government Screwed Up the Use of VNRs

By: Arment Dietrich | September 13, 2006 | 
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I was having dinner on Monday night with some friends and mentioned the launch of this blog.  One friend got really excited and related a story about being on vacation and seeing, what was clearly a video news release (VNR) used by the news channel but not identified as such.  He told me that the woman “reporter” was talking about the pros of the mining community and her last name even was “Cavern”. 

Yes, a VNR distributed by some organization in favor of mining and they actually used a spokesperson to do the reporting and gave her a name that coincided with the story.

Unbelievable?  Yes!  True?  Unfortunately.

So much destructive spin fodder here!  I’m almost giddy.

Early last year, following a March 2005 New York Times report on the use by government of VNRs, White House spokesman (at the time) Scott McClellan was asked at a media briefing whether their use was “legal and legitimate…without disclaimers that they’re government productions, as long as they meet some standard of factual basis?”

He replied with, “First of all, we’re talking about informational news releases. And the Department of Justice has issued an opinion saying that as long as this is factual information about department or agency programs, it is perfectly appropriate.”

We all know how that ended — and it caused a huge stir within the public relations industry.

At FADS, we believe if you want TV stations to cover a news story, either invite them to shoot it themselves (even in Chicago, they’re willing to do that) or package b-roll and pitch the story to a producer via phone.  Let them package the story themselves, with their own reporters.  It will come across a lot more credible to your audiences and you won’t have to worry about SPONSORED or ADVERTORIAL stamped across the top of the story.

More on destructive VNRs this week.