Fox News Fakes News

Just about four years ago to the day, I criticized my industry, the public relations industry, for its use of video news releases (VNRs). VNRs are video segments designed to look exactly like a TV news story. But they are produced by PR pros, not reporters, often with PR people acting out the role of faux reporters. Just as PR people and their clients hope, VNRs often get run unedited or lightly edited on actual newscasts, which has caused watchdog groups like PR Watch to label this crowning achievement of the PR industry “fake news.” This brand of fake news has been shamelessly used over the years to sell everything from widgets to wars.

Ever the killjoy, I argued back in the day that VNRs are qualitatively different than written news releases: “The use of PR people mimicking the dress and conventions of news reporters without real time disclosures of their mimicry crosses the line from briefing reporters to impersonating reporters.”

VNR’s just do not pass a reasonable person’s smell test.

My quixotic propsoal was for PR pros to be proactively ethical, and disclose the funder of the VNR, via a continuously on-screen chyron, to make it impossible for a TV news producer to use any VNR footage without proper attiribution.

This proposal did not catch fire in PR salons.

But the issue hasn’t gone away. In fact, last week the FCC penalized the local Fox affilate, KMSP-TV, for airing a story about the automobile industry that was, it turns out, exactly how General Motors would tell the story, if it were telling the story itself. Because it was. Because the KMSP-TV news team borrowed heavily from a GM-funded VNR advertisement.

Continue reading “Fox News Fakes News”

Fake News Blues

“I get most of my news from The Daily Show,” the young and the terminally hip often declare defiantly to dowdy news traditionalists like me.

Well, don’t you believe them. According to a Pew Research study:

… viewers of the show are highly informed, an indication that “The Daily Show” is not their lone source of news. Regular viewers of “The Daily Show” and the Colbert Report were most likely to score in the highest percentile on knowledge of current affairs.”

So it turns out most fake news junkies also appear to be mainstream news junkies. And that is a good thing. Because as a stand alone news source, the Daily Show is flawed. In a year-long analysis of Daily Show conent, Pew found:

• UNBALANCED DIET. Overall, The Daily Show’s news agenda is very close to the cable news agenda. However, a) The Daily Show does emphasizes national politics much more heavily than other types of news and b) the fake newsies covers the mainstream news media about twice as often as the mainstream news media covers itself.

• PREREQUISITES REQUIRED. The Daily Show’s coverage also does much less basic issue briefing. The Daily Show, says Pew, “not only assumes, but even requires, previous and significant knowledge of the news on the part of viewers if they want to get the joke.”

• VAST LEFT-WING CONSPIRACY. Achtung, my conservative friends. This really is the liberal media. According to Pew: “From July 1 through November 1, (The Daily Show host John) Stewart’s humor targeted Republicans more than three times as often as Democrats.”

Thanks to the mystical powers of TiVO, I’m a Daily Show junky. Many days, it makes me think more deeply about the state of the world than the mainstream news does. But if citizens come to rely on The Daily Show as their primary or sole news source, they will end up with a badly skewed world view. The Daily Show’s ideological bias alone should prove that point.

So fellow fake news junkies, let’s all repeat it together: “It’s not really news, it’s not really news, it’s not really news…”

– Loveland

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