Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed
April 12, 2006 5:10 PM   Subscribe

US TV newsrooms churn out PR companies' spin as real news. Hats off to those broadcasters who turned the spin around to reflect the real truthiness.
Meanwhile while I didn't find similar PR company manipulation in UK TV news, there's certainly an element of government, or more accurately MoD, faking that compares well with the US's.
posted by NailsTheCat (37 comments total)
Local TV news is the absolute worst. I stopped watching it years ago.
posted by zardoz at 5:12 PM on April 12, 2006

I got the original link from Broadcast Engineering but subsequently discovered it had earlier been reported by Huffington. Still worthy of a FPP methinks/methought.
posted by NailsTheCat at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2006

Well, it sounds like "turning the spin around" meant manipulating the PR content to say the opposite: taking quotes wildly out of context, making experts seem to support a position by juxtaposition..in short being just as dirty and deceptive as the original PR producers.

I'm not certain I like that much more. How about they just report actual news?
posted by freebird at 5:15 PM on April 12, 2006

This was on NPR last week some time, and I think that was a follow up story from maybe a year prior. The station manager that swore they didn't use them said "you got someone in trouble" when confronted with the evidence that the station had in fact used one word for word.
posted by Eekacat at 5:20 PM on April 12, 2006

So is the FCC going to issue fines like they did with Janet’s boob?
Or is it a load of rich, creamery butter. Mmmm...butter.

Stay tuned.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:20 PM on April 12, 2006

It just made me chortle that the PR company's disception was met with more deception and thus earning them negative press -- good to see them getting a taste of, ahem, their own medicine.

But you're quite right of course. All this message manipulation sticks in my craw too.
posted by NailsTheCat at 5:21 PM on April 12, 2006

Man, that Smedleyman is insightful and funny!

/I’m not Smedleyman even though it says so right down there.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:22 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

The worst thing about it all was the identifying of the PR firm's "reporters" as the network's. "Now, Fox's Steve Johnson with health news you need!" and stuff like that.
posted by amberglow at 5:25 PM on April 12, 2006

Although the echo chamber effect of the online media can be troubling, it is arguably less so than the alternative here, where truth belongs to the highest bidder.

When did journalistic objectivity die? Did it ever exist? Nowadays it seems like we only have the choice of deciding between equally plausible untruths, but maybe it was always so.
posted by Makoto at 5:27 PM on April 12, 2006

Man, that Smedleyman is insightful and funny!

*cashes Smedleyman's check, looks around nervously*
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on April 12, 2006

The worst thing about it all was the identifying of the PR firm's "reporters" as the network's

Indeed. Disappointingly I haven't noticed any stations airing the same story and claiming the same reporter -- that would be wonderful. A ballsy news station could always take the opportunity to dis' its competitors by running this story....
If you want to do something about it just fill out the form to send your complaint to the FCC. I'd do it myself but my apathy's pretty bad today...
posted by NailsTheCat at 5:33 PM on April 12, 2006

It's not directly related to VNRs, but the SF Weekly has a pretty interesting article this week about San Francisco's KRON TV and the struggles of its newsroom. Their latest innovation is cutting costs by using "one man band" reporters who report, shoot video, and edit stories (effectively replacing three-person teams with one-person teams). The background in that article seems to point to why TV news all seems to be so dire (hint: it's the money), and that direness in turn might explain why local stations do utterly lazy, ethically borderline things like running unedited VNRs as news.
posted by whir at 5:45 PM on April 12, 2006

Man, that Smedleyman is insightful and funny!

/Not being paid. Just likes Smedleyman's pimpin' style.
posted by quin at 5:51 PM on April 12, 2006

According to languagehat and quin, that Smedleyman is anything BUT funny.

*turns the spin around*
posted by dersins at 6:13 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

4 out of 5 mefites recommend Smedleyman for insight and humor.
posted by quonsar at 6:41 PM on April 12, 2006

Just the other day I happened to read Paul Graham's thoughts on this very matter. He refers to the PR industry as, "lurking like a huge, quiet submarine beneath the news", and suggests, "Of the stories you read in traditional media that aren't about politics, crimes, or disasters, more than half probably come from PR firms".

I hadn't been entirely unaware of this practice, but reading the newspaper the next morning brought the ugly reality into sharp relief - once the pattern is explicitly understood, a hefty chunk of the news is clearly staggeringly bogus PR padding.
posted by MetaMonkey at 7:19 PM on April 12, 2006

This station has no original content to contribute on this topic, so I'm just going to slip in something a PR firm sent me to fill up this space:

Man, that Smedleyman is insightful and funny!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:22 PM on April 12, 2006

For Immediate Release

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In a recent study conducted by Quonsar & Associates, 4 out of 5 MeFites recommend Smedlyman for insight and humor. Even esteemed leader, Math Owie, includes Smedlyman in the pantheon of great posters. "We all had a soda together," the reclusive Owie added in a rare interview.

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posted by slogger at 7:29 PM on April 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

WTNH TV from New Haven CT is selling luxury downtown SoHo style condos in reclaimed remodled prime locations, starting at $525.000. The primetime news coverage at Five PM showed the high cielings and exposed brick. At six there were to be further details.
posted by longsleeves at 7:45 PM on April 12, 2006

and PBS gets its budget cut all the time right? There HAS to be state 'owned' news reportage...
posted by RufusW at 7:45 PM on April 12, 2006

Smedleyman has been praised for his insight and humor. But is Smedleyman really as insightful and funny as you think?

The REAL story on Smedleyman. Could it HARM YOUR KIDS? Tonight at 11. Only on Metafilter, the news source you trust.
posted by edverb at 7:50 PM on April 12, 2006

Ok, back on topic.

I checked the links and hit my local television stations and started to prep the torches and pitchforks. What did I find:


Granted it's sleazy editing of the material but they did check the story out and go with the New England Journal of Medicine over a PR firm tripe.

Should I write a scathing thank you or a heart warming complaint?
posted by cmfletcher at 7:51 PM on April 12, 2006

This was covered by Democracy Now, too. There's an intervew with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein in there.

There are some pretty funny bits: Adelstein describes himself as pessimistic about this sort of thing, but is shocked by how much of it goes on. He would also be shocked if the stations publicly apologized for what he calls "outrageous behavior and the disgraceful journalism."

There's also a nice bit where he is asked about similar activites done by the government.
posted by WL at 7:52 PM on April 12, 2006

write a thank you, cmfletcher--just checking the story out is rare nowadays, and using a respected authority instead of a corporation and their pr firms is even rarer.
posted by amberglow at 8:01 PM on April 12, 2006

Psst. Sneaking in late in the thread to do a little viral marketing. Don't tell anyone, but smedleyman is the New Funny. Chill with the meme.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:32 PM on April 12, 2006

Outrage at 11 : the infamous Smedleyman was caught fabricating phoney news with intent to publicize his own sexual escapaded for grotesque purposes. International journalist in agreement calling this "smedleymanism" or the practice of producing false sensational news about inexistant celebrities.

Government sources mildly reacted to news suggesting the Smedleyman has connection with liberal cabals.

Oprah Winfrey, nigro woman from the south, was unavaiable for comment.
posted by elpapacito at 4:06 AM on April 13, 2006

When did journalistic objectivity die?
When it got bundled into the entertainment budget. Another victim of short-term planning.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on April 13, 2006

Smedleyman Check Returned

MetaFilter bloviator languagehat today announced he had returned a check from Smedleyman, recently accused of "fabricating phoney news" and spreading accounts of his insight and wit via supposedly impartial internet sources. He announced that the check had been accepted by aides who had since been let go, and that he would never knowingly take money from cabal members.
posted by languagehat at 5:09 AM on April 13, 2006

Is this "Smedleyman" something I would have to own a TV to know about?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:22 AM on April 13, 2006

You don't need a tv to know Smedleyman, Smedleyman knows you !
posted by elpapacito at 6:48 AM on April 13, 2006

just the other day while i was waiting for the bus, some really cool-looking black kids in dope-ass smedleyman(tm) gear walked up, and they were so cool looking, edgy, rebellious and gangsta, that i knew the person represented by their logos had to be funny and insightful.

i took the bus to the mall and bought some smedley gear, and now everyone thinks i'm funny and insightful too.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:41 AM on April 13, 2006

Dear Metafilter Letters:

I never thought this would happen to me, but last week smedleyman and I were in an elevator...
posted by scrump at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2006

Hey, that's all well and good, but what about this?
posted by davejay at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2006

write a thank you, cmfletcher--just checking the story out is rare nowadays, and using a respected authority instead of a corporation and their pr firms is even rarer.
posted by amberglow

Man, we've really lowered the bar on expectations!
What is really sickening to me is that I agree with amberglow.

And now for astute commentary from Gop Suckass, an esteemed colleague of the Right Wing Wurlitzer "think tank" to tell all you what you need to think regarding the Smedleyman controversy.
posted by nofundy at 7:29 AM on April 14, 2006

we have lowered them enormously, but we're stuck with shit for media.

getting rid of--or even proper identification of---GOP suckasses is just impossible...that's too much to even dream of, sadly.
posted by amberglow at 1:32 PM on April 14, 2006

Behind The Smedleyman: Tonight on VH1
posted by quonsar at 8:11 PM on April 15, 2006

Smedleyman outsources comments to Dubai. Not seen on metafilter for several days.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:42 AM on April 17, 2006

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