Saturday, March 26, 2005

J-School Protests Covert Propaganda

The Journalism Faculty at Boston Unversity has taken a unanimous stand against "the practice of broadcasting government video news releases (VNRs) where the source of the material is not identified," writes Jay Rosen. Bob Zelnick, chairman of the school and former ABC News correspondent, circulated the resolution to other J-Schools. Here's the complete text:

Unanimous Resolution
of the Boston University Journalism Faculty
Condemning Fraudulent Use of
Video News Releases
March 22, 2005

RESOLVED, THAT...
As educators of the next generation of American journalists, we the journalism faculty at the College of Communication, Boston University:

Recognize the need of citizens in a democracy for information that is accurate, unbiased and independently gathered and presented;

Recognize the vital need of government to communicate with its citizens and the useful role print and video news releases (VNRs) can play in this process;

Recognize the obligation of news organizations to identify clearly the origin of any editorial material provided by government, business, interest group or any source other than their own news gathering or that of affiliated news organizations;

Recognize the obligation of government to avoid using VNRs for purposes of political advocacy or propaganda;

Recognize the need to avoid presenting the material in a way that invites public confusion as to its source;

Note the President’s recent statement that acknowledges the need to maintain a clear line of distinction between journalists and members of the government or Administration;

Condemn the use of “phony” reporters hired by the government to perform in VNRs where their affiliation with government is unstated, and urge the Administration to translate the President’s words into action by ceasing this practice at once;

Urge the Administration to identify and cease other practices with respect to VNRs that run a substantial risk of misleading the public;

Condemn the deliberate use by television news outlets of material knowingly obtained from the Administration without clear identification of its origin, and urge all members of the media to cease this deceptive practice at once.

We invite colleagues at other journalism schools and departments to endorse the Boston University Resolution.

Unanimous Resolution
of the Boston University Journalism Faculty
Condemning Fraudulent Use of Video News Releases
March 22, 2005

Department Chairman Bob Zelnick's Letter to Colleagues:

Attached is a resolution adopted yesterday by the faculty of the Boston University Department of Journalism condemning the practice of broadcasting government video news releases (VNRs) where the source of the material is not identified.

We find particularly objectionable the use of "phony reporters" hired by one agency or another who deliver complete reports, including sign offs, without ever mentioning their affiliation and, in some cases misrepresenting it.

We also condemn those stations that knowingly run news segments, written, shot and recorded by the government with no identification as to the source of the material. We regard these practices as unethical journalism that run a high risk of confusing or even deceiving the public.

During the civil rights era, and again during the Vietnam war, we found that simple appeals to decency and respect for the rule of law presented by academicians often carried great moral and political impact. We believe the same may be true with respect to this situation which strikes at the core of journalistic integrity.

Accordingly we invite your distinguished faculty to join us in protesting the subversion of journalistic values both by the Government and those media collaborators who seek competitive advantage at the expense of fundamental public integrity.

Please let me know how your faculty responds to this invitation. It is my judgment that by acting in concert, we can achieve significant results.

Yours truly,

Bob Zelnick
Chairman Journalism Department
College of Communication
Boston University

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