I made a passing reference to VNRs in my last post and linked to the Wikipedia. One of the descriptions I’ve always enjoyed is from the novel Slick, by author Daniel Price (of the late AbusedByTheNews.com.) It’s written from the perspective of a PR flack:

The video news release (VNR) is the dirty little secret that all flacks and hacks share. It’s do-it-yourself coverage. Using my own crew, my own script, even my own voice, I serve as the on-the-scene (but never seen) reporter. When all is said and done, I’ve got a professional-looking two-minute news piece, the kind you see every night at eleven. From there we use a portable uplink to shoot the whole thing into space. The final step is faxing notice to all the newsrooms…

For the budget-conscious news director, this is manna from heaven. It takes just minutes for Graphics to add their custom network overlays and Sound to dub a local reporter’s voice over mine. Presto. The station runs the piece as their own. There’s no legal requirement to cite the source, and that’s just the way we like it. The producers often mix it up a little to cover their tracks. That’s what a B-roll is for. It’s a no-frills collection fof relevant interviews and visual clips, a media LEGO set they can put together any way they want. It’s a great system. On a slow news day, a thirty-minute show can squeeze in a good seven to eight minutes of VNRs, as compared to five or six minutes of real news. It’s pretty easy to tell the two apart. That fire in Century City? News. The new laser technique to remove wrinkles? VNR. If it promotes a product or company, it’s a VNR. If the reporter never appears in any of the on-scene footage, that’s because it ain’t his story. It came from outer space.

One Response to “On VNRs”

  1. Debbie Reschke Says:

    That’s SO great because we used those ALL the time when I was down state in market 147…I always thought they were the biggest sham especially because we’d make it look like it was our special report. A reporter would be assigned to do all the voiceovers that month. Sometimes they’d even have an anchor doing a stand-up to intro it (the best was when one of the old time guys kept on delivering the lead-in with a clipboard – looked real professional). But the problem is…the viewers loved those. They’d call the station all the time asking for the web sites mentioned in those things. I think they’re creepy especially when they have a disproportionate amount of packs on sleep apnea…at least they did last March.

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