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More on ethics and press releases

It appears that the problem I complained about a few days ago -- publishers pretending that press releases are news items created by staff writers -- isn't confined to B2B journalism.

Television news programs are suffering from similar shortcomings, according to an investigation by Free Press and the Center For Media and Democracy. In the TV business, press releases often come in a so-called video news release, or VNR, a sort of pretend story and/or B-roll background footage. And according to the investigation, at least 77 stations aired VNRs without attribution and branded them instead with the station's graphics. (You can read about the investigation here or here.)

One thing worth noting -- and worth applauding -- in the VNR scandal is how the Radio-Television News Directors Association reacted. The RTNDA issued this statement, urging stations "to review and strengthen their policies requiring complete disclosure of any outside material used in news programming." The RTNDA also reminded members that the organization's ethics policy prohibits such activity.

At present there are no such outright bans in the ethics policies of the ASBPE or ABM. But perhaps it's not too much to hope that one or both groups would consider addressing the issue.

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