I had breakfast this week with Doug Simon of (D.S. Simon) fresh off his testimony before a Congressional Committee investigating the ethics of using of corporate or government-produced video in news programming. Doug’s firm specializes in packaging independently produced news stories. Following the Karen Ryan affair and Armstrong Williams debacle, the PR antagonistas are freshly emboldened in their quest to shut down the VNR (and PR) industry altogether.
Doug’s firm conducted a survey of TV news producers. Less than half acknowledged that the videos they receive identify their “sponsors,” e.g. who’s paying. This is a problem for our industry, but also for those journalists who don’t know enough to question the source. After enduring their share of deceptive PR pitches, the bookers at the network morning shows finally know enough to ask the PR firm who’s paying its fee to book the “celebrity” spokeseperson.
The practice of producing and distributing video for news consumption is not the problem. It’s akin to the creation and distribution/syndication of press releases, audio sound bites, and webblog content. Newsmakers are entitled to issue their news in its most applicable format. However, if Doug’s data is correct, both the PR and journalism industries could do a better job to ensure transparency, i.e., full disclosure, perhaps taking its lead from the SEC .