PR Technique: Video and Print News Releases


PR Technique: Video and Print News Releases

Many stories you see in the news are actually created by a PR firm assisting some industry. They were not created by journalists. The reporter can put their name on the "article" to make it look like a reporter wrote it. It is a Third-Party Technique to manipulate the public. Have a journalist put their name on the print news release [PNR's] and what is actually a story to push some corporate agenda appears to be a real news story. There are also pre-packaged video news releases [VNR's]. They come with a script so the reporter can do a voice over to make look like the reporter created the story. PNR's and VNR's are actually deceptive advertising that few journalists admit to using.

Today's opinion manipulation industry is a powerful giant, but like Goliath, it is a giant with a fatal weakness. When the public is educated about its techniques, it often loses its ability to mislead and manipulate.
The key to winning anything is opposition research.

From Toxic Sludge Is Good For You! Lies Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry ...

   Hard Pressed

Video news releases, known as VNRs, typically come packaged with two versions of the story the PR firm is trying to promote. The first version is fully edited, with voiceovers already included or with a script indicating where the station's local news anchor should read his or her lines. The second version is known as "B-roll," and consists of the raw footage that was used to produce the fully-edited version. The receiving station can edit the B-roll footage itself, or combine it with other footage received from other sources. "There are two economics at work here on the television side," explains a Gray & Company executive. "The big stations don't want prepackaged, pretaped. They have the money, the budget, and the manpower to put their own together. But the smaller stations across the country lap up stuff like this."

MediaLink, a PR firm that distributed about half of the 4,000 VNRs made available to newscasters in 1991, conducted a survey of 92 newsrooms and found that all 92 used VNRs supplied free by PR firms and subtly slanted to sell a clients' products and ideas while appearing to be "real" TV news. On June 13, 1991, for example, the CBS Evening News ran a segment on the hazards of automatic safety belts. According to David Lieberman, author of a 1992 article titled "Fake News," the safety belt tape "was part of a 'video news release' created by ... a lobby group largely supported by lawyers."

"VNRs are as much a public relations fixture as the print news release," stated George Glazer, a senior vice-president of Hill & Knowlton. "In fact, many public relations firms are well into the second generation of VNR technology.

... With few exceptions, broadcasters as a group have refused to participate in any kinds of standards establishment for VNRs, in part because they rarely will admit to using them on the air. ... There are truly hundreds of examples of self-denial on the part of broadcasters when it comes to admitting that VNRs are used."

When corporations buy up a local paper, Donham says, standards usually decline:

They practice what I call 'bottom-line journalism'-which means, to quote the late Don Reynolds, editorial material is the 'gray matter that fills up the space between the ads' Here's how these corporations work: After buying up a small or medium-sized newspaper with much fanfare, the companies make a lot of noises about local editorial control, promising not to interfere with the editorial content of the publication. They frequently keep on the old editor Slowly, however, they exert their control, and the editor usually leaves after six months to a year after purchase. They cut the newspaper's staff to the bare minimum it takes to put out the publication on a daily or weekly basis, ... they stop reinvesting any of the profits in the product and instead ship all profits made back to corporate headquarters, they de-emphasize the news and emphasize advertising and circulation revenue.

After about a year or so, you have an extremely streamlined operation What remains of the editorial staff is humping so hard just to get the paper out, there is no time to do in-depth or investigative reporting. Needless to say, it makes for superficial journalism and news by press release. If they don't quit, hard-pressed and bitter reporters resign themselves to covering the superficial and the easy, to relying on press releases or on breaking, easy-to-cover stories, such as the 0.J. Simpson case. Reporters simply don't have the time, and after a while, the inclination to do anything in depth.

This environment may be demoralizing to journalists, but it offers a veritable hog's heaven to the public relations industry. In their 1985 book, PR: How the Public Relations Industry Writes the News, authors Jeff & Marie Blyskal write that "PR people know how the press thinks. Thus they are able to tailor their publicity so that journalists will listen and cover it. As a result much of the news you read in newspapers and magazine or watch on television and hear on radio is heavily influenced and slanted by public relations people. Whole sections of the news are virtually owned by PR organizations ... Newspaper food pages are a PR man's paradise, as are the entertainment, automotive, real estate, home improvement and living sections. ... Unfortunately 'news' hatched by a PR person and journalist working together looks much like real news dug up by enterprising journalists working independently. The public thus does not know which news stories and journalists are playing servant to PR." Today the number of PR flacks in the United States outnumbers working journalists, and the gap is widening.

   Revolving Doors

Media critics note that the media habitually fails to report on itself; it also fails to report on the PR industry. To do so would reveal the extent of its dependency on PR for access, sources, quotes, stories and ideas. According to authors Jeff and Marie Blyskal, "the press has grown frighteningly dependent on public relations people. Outsiders-the reading and viewing public-would have a hard time discovering this on their own because the dependence on PR is part of behind-the-scenes press functioning. ... Meanwhile, like an alcoholic who can't believe he has a drinking problem, members of the press are too close to their own addiction to PR to realize there is anything wrong. In fact, the press which has a seemingly inborn cynical, arrogant, down-the-nose view of public relations, seems sadly self-deceptive about the true press/PR relationship." Canned news and industry-supplied "experts" are effective because they appeal to budget-conscious news organizations. When a TV news show airs a video news release, the PR firm that produced the segment pays for all the costs of scripting, filming and editing. Likewise, PR-supplied experts enable reporters to produce authentic-sounding stories with a minimum of time and effort. The public rarely notices the self-serving bias that creeps into the news along with these subtle subsidies.