Is Your Local News A Scripted Fraud?
By:   //  Op-Ed

Those who watch local television news have come to expect low brow stories which, if nothing else, are somewhat unique to their market. Generally it’s a rigid formula of top local stories, some national news, sports, weather and a capper which is usually some kind of “feel good.” What people don’t expect is a canned story that’s been sent down from the mountaintop of media conglomerates and is being broadcast, word-for-word in other markets by other affiliates. Sadly, they’re getting all of the above, blurring the lines of what is local content and what’s basically a fraudulent offering masquerading as something produced locally.

Ironically, the first person to uncover this widespread practice is comedian Conan O’Brien, whose late night talk show is syndicated nationally on TBS. The first story he featured, which was replicated over and over again in countless market had to do with “self gifting” during the holidays. Most of these appear to be broadcast on various network affiliate stations including NBC, ABC and CBS. Watch the segment below:

What’s unclear is just exactly where these stations are getting the material and why so many of them are using up valuable minutes of their news block to read canned content. The Conan segment does not show any mention of locations of these stations, other than the graphic overlays across the bottom of the clips, but even that is hard to decipher. So if these  stations are all reading from exactly the same script, who is the source? That information is completely left out of this segment, but would appear to be the most important detail.

Investigative Journalist, Ben Swann, who left his network affiliate job with WXIX (Fox) in Cincinnati earlier this year, also weighed in on the subject. Here’s his take:

“In most of these cases where O’Brien uses anchors from different TV stations all over the country reading the exact same script word for word, the source of that script is some kind of wire service.  This means those stations have subscribed to AP, Reuters, CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, etc wire services.  In those cases, the wire story will come down and a station reporter or producer will copy and paste it word for word into a newscast.  The problem with this policy is that reporters and producers simply take that content as gospel and no one in any newsroom ever bothers to fact check or verify if the wire story is correct.  Simply put, in a newsroom, if it is on the wire it has to be true.”

Even Swann isn’t really sure where this trend of canned content is coming from, but his theory is that it’s just a wire service story that’s copied and pasted as filler. Perhaps he’s right. Ben would know better than most about what goes on behind the curtain in the production of local “mainstream news.”

However, a search for the key sentence, ‘You can admit it if you’ve bought an item or two,’ the anchors say, ‘or 10 for yourself,’ does not yield a result from any wire service like A.P. or Reuters. It’s possible that the content has been taken down, but typically those stories show up in the text form and attributed to their source. This one may just have to remain a mystery until someone spills the beans about where it came from. Obviously there are quite a few people who know the truth.

What’s clear, more than ever, is that mainstream news is not true journalism, but mere propaganda being spread by those willing to spread it. Your local news stations are likely to be participating in this practice of reading scripted news from outside sources and should at least be honest about where the stories are coming from. (Gord Brody – VNN) (Image: Flickr | Lars Plougmann)




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