Publicist Delivers "Health Report" at Two Newscasts
|Clients: Siemens Oncology|
|Release Date: August 2006|
|Aired By: 2 stations|
|Disclosed By: No stations|
For the second time, KSFY-13 (Sioux Falls, SD) took a video news release (VNR) from medical industry publicists and dropped it—complete and uncut—into their morning newscast. Unlike the earlier instance documented in this report, KSFY-13 completely failed this time to disclose the true source of the story to its viewers.
On August 22, 2006, the station aired a two-minute health report on MVision, an elaborate new medical device from Siemens Oncology that provides doctors with a three-dimensional image of a patient's tumor, thus allowing them to treat the cancer with more accurate radiation therapy. The story featured numerous all-positive soundbites from Frederick Linder, a prostate cancer patient; Dr. Jean Pouliot, an oncologist at a San Francisco cancer center; and Andreas Schlatter, a representative from Siemens Oncology. The "reporter," Kate Brookes, closed the segment by calling MVision "a development that has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat cancer."
Sadly, KSFY-13's audience had no way of knowing that the entire health report was lifted frame-by-frame from a VNR created by Medialink Worldwide on behalf of its client, Siemens Oncology. Nor could viewers tell that Kate Brookes was actually a publicist, not a journalist. In introducing the story, KSFY-13 morning anchor Meagan Dorsch tossed to the story to Brookes as if she were a reporter at the station: "As Kate Brookes explains, recent advances are helping doctors treat tumors faster, safer, and more precisely."
In addressing his station's use of VNRs, KSFY-13 news director Mitch Krebs told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that "we like to run disclosure...but sometimes a producer might not understand the rules."
On August 28, the Siemens VNR made a brief appearance on "First Business", a nationally-syndicated financial news program that appears early mornings on 191 stations across the United States. The 30-second segment, presented by Medialink's Brookes, contained narrative material not available in the original VNR. It's not known if the content was gathered from supplementary footage (B-roll) provided with the VNR or if it was specially-prepared by Medialink for use on "First Business."
CMD has observed Kate Brookes "reporting" for Medialink and Siemens on multiple occasions. In January 2006, she presented a pro-ethanol story on behalf of Siemens AG, which supplies processing systems to two-thirds of America's ethanol plants. Five stations used the complete VNR without any disclosure. Later that month, she was featured in a VNR on modular car components manufactured by Siemens' automobile division. It was used without attribution by three stations.
Six days before KSFY-13 ran the Siemens VNR, the station had aired a report on a new diagnostic tool for kidney disease that was taken whole-cloth from a privately-funded VNR. In that instance, disclosure was only provided because the VNR's creator—D S Simon Productions—had recently updated their procedures to embed the client information in the VNR itself. Two months later, KSFY-13 aired yet another undisclosed VNR, promoting a cold remedy.
|Original Siemens VNR||KSFY-13 5:30 AM newscast|
|Created by Medialink||August 22, 2006|
|Voiced by publicist||Voiced by publicist|