Ethanol Plants get a big “seal of approval’ with this VNR
Kate Brookes is a local reporter for ABC news in Nevada. She is also a local reporter for ABC news in Louisiana. She reports locally from Texas for CBS and in Missouri for Fox. Which, if you’ve been keeping score, doesn’t seem plausible. But the truth is, she is not a reporter at all, but a publicist for Medialink, the world’s first and largest supplier of video news releases or VNRs. But these national broadcasters present Kate Brookes as if she were one on their own news team.
Back in 2006 Brookes was assigned to shoot a VNR for Medialink on the “Ethanol boom’ meant to bolster the trend of using corn-based fuel as the new clean energy alternative. Her feature was two minutes long and included testimony from two industry experts, an ethanol plant builder, and a local corn farmer, all with glowing reports.
What was not in the report was any debate on environmental or economic impact this trend might have. It was presented as a big win for farmers and the economy, as well as a save-all for the environment, relieving us of our dependence from fossil fuels. We know better now, but in 2006, the American people were desperate for a solution to the oil crisis. Much of the country’s farm land has since been taken over by big corporate interests, ousting small farmers and destroying the biodiversity of the land.
This two-minute segment was presented as news in 5 different cities, with all the visuals replaced with network-branded graphics and Brookes as their local reporter on the scene. Not one of the stations mentions that the VNR was paid for by Siemens AG, a worldwide engineering corporation that supplies process automation systems to two-thirds of the ethanol plants in the country.
VNRs can range from product placement/competitor bashing, to pharmaceutical companies advertising without having to disclose the side effects of a drug. When newscasters “investigate’ the safety of children’s toys just in time for Christmas, it is typically a VNR paid for by the toy makers. And when they do a piece on the latest medical issue, generally they are sponsored by the companies who stand to profit from the mention of their drugs or procedures.
There has been lots of opposition to ethanol being a viable fuel alternative, but rarely will you see it in the news. So unless one investigates on their own, the average person has their view painted rosy by greedy corporate interests. It’s certainly not a new thing, as Mark Twain attested to many years ago, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.’