Posted by: Dr. Grey  :  Category: Uncategorized

As much as it hurts to try, I attempt to keep myself up to date with local news and home town stories. When you’re a doctor serving a community, you need to do your best to understand it. But the state of local news, paper or broadcast, just isn’t like it used to be. A local paper I read has recently gone through some layoffs. I think there may only be 5 reporters left on the whole staff. It’s pretty sad. I have heard it said so many times but I’m starting to believe it now: “Newspapers are a dying business.”

If the papers are going extinct, I think local television news stations are next. Though it will be sad to see them go, I think it needs to happen. Some business just go the way of the dinosaurs (unless the government is standing by with a bailout). The nightly news is cutting so many costs it is starting to become glaring. You can see it in the production quality and from the stories they pick.

Recently I was watching the news and a story came on about a new health supplement. The story spent two minutes singing the products praises, proclaiming how effective it was. As a doctor, I had heard of the product before and I had read up on its ingredients before. From my own research, I knew that the supplement did not yield the results the news anchors were promising but still they treated it like it was something revolutionary, exciting, and news worthy. The whole thing made me very suspicious.

I decided to do some research of my own. I have a friend who was a communications major back in college. He got a degree in broadcast journalism and worked in the field for about a year before he couldn’t take it anymore and went back to school to become a dentist. I asked him why stations were putting out stories like the one I had seen the other night. He told me that while he was in the business, stations would receive Video News Releases, or VNRs, on a regular basis to supplement their story line up.

Ignorant of what a VNR was, I asked him to explain what that was. He explained that a VNR is a prerecorded video package edited and sometimes narrated by a third party. This third party is usually a public relations firmed that has been hired by the company putting out the new product they’re highlighting. These packages sound like a news story, but in reality they are short little infomercials. Since the news station is so strapped for time with a limited staff, they are willing to run almost anything if it will save them a few bucks. In essence, supplement companies are paying news outlets to run stories on their products. This hardly seems objective, unbiased, or like sound journalism at all.

So next time you’re watching the news and you see a little segment on some new miracle drug, don’t be taken in. You can be sure that this product isn’t news worthy and was just included to delay inevitable death of a dying news show.

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