watching the local news one evening and see a video clip
of the president of a local company talking about how
the firm has helped solve a major community problem. You
wonder how he convinced the TV station to come to his
office and film the segment. Surprise! His company
actually produced the segment and delivered it to the
station’s news department - one more case of
Participatory Journalism. Video News Releases (VNRs) are
now being produced and distributed by thousands of
companies and government agencies who realize they can
“make” their own news.
Nielsen Media Research, every television station uses
VNRs – and as many as 80 percent of them air VNRs
several times per month. News directors facing temporal
deadlines and restricted budgets may resort to VNRs as a
way to fill holes in their broadcasts. Sometimes the VNR
is used as “b-roll” footage for background or a sound
bite, but in other cases it is used in its entirety as
an uncut feature.
The VNR is
simply a press release with moving pictures and sound.
News directors may find them to be good “filler”
material – but is the material legitimate news or just
another marketing ploy?
whom you talk to, VNRs are seen as either innocent
segment fillers or outright advertising – sometimes
false advertising. For instance, it’s not journalistic
to create a VNR with an “expert” touting the
effectiveness of a new product when the expert is
actually a paid actor. It’s not even good advertising -
and certainly not ethical PR.
line: as discussed in the article, “Escape from
Advertising,” journalism is becoming
more and more participatory. When companies use VNRs
correctly, it can be advantageous – but used deceptively
or incorrectly, the tactic can backfire.