The whole thing with Williams and the No Child Left Behind act stirred up a debate on another forum and raised this question: Do programs such as 20/20, Nightline, 60 Minutes, etc receive money from publicists and the like to have certain hosts or to air segments? Or is it a matter of “Hey, so-and-so sent out a press release that he has this exposé coming out, call his publicist and say we want to pay him to appear on the show?”
For the most part in the U.S. - there have been a few exceptions, almost all of which have caused controversy - legitimate news shows do not accept money for segments nor do they pay the people who appear on them. Publicists don’t get segments onto legitimate news shows.
Yes, so it was a complete and utter coincidence on NBC-4 TV in Los Angeles on this past Thursday’s local morning news, when a segment featuring an interview, done by some anonymous off-camera entity rather than one of the station’s numerous reporters, with a university researcher who had found that the only weight-loss program out of over a dozen tested that actually worked was Weight Watchers, was, after the bumper by the anchors, followed by a Weight Watchers commercial. :rolleyes:
Such practices have been well-known for years.
Remember, the idea of a TV show of any stripe telling you specifically and accurately when the programming stops and the advertising begins is a matter of convention, not law.
The OP referred to the network news magazines, which are a completely different entity than local news broadcasts. Apples and oranges.
I want to nitpick a small point, xap.
It is, most assuredly, a publicists job to get face time on news shows for his or her client. He just can’t PAY to have it occur (or shouldn’t).
But he can issue press releases, follow up with producers about ‘did you see our press release…isn’t that an important story?’, take producers out to lunch to build a relationship, sent Christmas baskets, etc.
It happens all the time. My little side-project gets me every computer game ever released for free and loads of other free stuff just on the off chance that we’ll give them some ink.
Sam Donaldson wasn’t on a local newcast, he was on a national news program.
More like apples and bigger, fatter, juicier apples.
Getting segments onto news shows (and articles into magazines, newspapers, and Web sites) is a publicist’s job. It’s what they get paid for. As Jonathan Chance pointed out, they don’t (or shouldn’t) pay to get things aired, but they know who to contact and how to do it.
I used to do some ghostwriting work for a publicist. He’d send me some drek slapped together by a CEO or CTO who wanted to get the word out on his company’s latest innovation. I’d turn it into a magazine article, and the publicist would get it into print.
All right, let’s look at your claim. One, your own source refutes you: despite the presence of Sam Donaldson, there is no indication that the “video news release” was used anywhere other than on local news broadcasts. Two, despite the no outcry claim, Donaldson did get slammed for lending his name that way. Three, the outcry lead to the ending of such participation, which may be why you had to go back 16 years for an example.
I said in so many words that there were a few controversial exceptions. You didn’t actually point out one, and even if you had, pointing one out wouldn’t have negated what I wrote.
Let me say it again. While local news often does accept “news” items from non-news sources - not just publicists: the Bush administration has been caught doing this at least twice - it is not now nor has it ever been a normal practice for the network news shows or magazines.
OK, let’s examine your claim.
Go to the Dateline start page.
Now, if your claim is true, we should see nothing there that is not legitimate news, free from any influence of marketing.
Indeed, we see the main story is the tsunami aftermath. No one claimed that publicists controlled the ENTIRETY of the content.
Coming up on Sunday’s edition? A segment with an author of a brand new diet book.
Newsmakers, the most important recent stories about people? Elizabeth Edwards, certainly legitimate. Each of the other four is someone on a publicity tour for some recent or upcoming project, and THREE of the four have strong ties to NBC Universal (Kirstie Alley has doen two series with them, Meet the Fockers is a Universal Picture, and Ellen Degeneres show is co-owned by NBC Universal. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. I’m sure all these stories would be produced and prominently featured WITHOUT the company ties.
More Stories from Dateline? An extra plug for Meet the Fockers, a story on Billy Crystal’s one man broadway show, which was partially written by former Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel, who I’m sure has not a single friend left at the network from his days at NBC.
Coincidences all, that so much top-level news happens to be related to entertainment products from the same company that produces the show.
It’s one thing for a network news magazine to promote network shows, or other connections. They are, after all, about entertainment, and if they can entertain and promote the network, that’s fine. Some of the lighter pieces are chosen with factors like that in mind, no argument.
But it isn’t outside publicists that put the shows onto the network. It’s the network’s own promotion department who suggests stories. The newsmagazines often take the suggestions, but they are free to ignore them.
But if you were an outside publicist contacting the network, they aren’t going to listen, unless your client is newsworthy in a particular way (If, say, J. D. Salinger hired a publicist, the networks would jump at the chance for the interview). But they wouldn’t pay for an interview.
For local news, there is a practice of various people of providing videotaped reports that are essentially, a free advertisement. This is highly controversial, and much criticized (often by the very people introducing the segments), but since the tape is free, management will insist on using them for filler.
It is unusual – and considered highly unethical – for a journalist to accept money to run a story.
Thanks, Chuck. You’re more patient with someone who enjoys changing the subject whenever he’s proved wrong than I am. However, let me just remind him of the OP.
Do programs such as 20/20, Nightline, 60 Minutes, etc receive money from publicists and the like to have certain hosts or to air segments? Or is it a matter of “Hey, so-and-so sent out a press release that he has this exposé coming out, call his publicist and say we want to pay him to appear on the show?”
The answers, no matter how much scotandrsn obfuscates, are still no, and no.
Well, you’re certainly right that it shouldn’t happen. But as appears to be the case it can happen.
Point taken. Yes, the General Questions answer is as you have stated it.
I was addressing what I perceived (perhaps incorrectly) to be the larger question behind the stated one: “Do marketers with something to sell to us have what might be thought of as an inordinate level of influence on what is presented to us as the key news items of the day?” The General Questions answer to which is “You better believe they do.”
That the networks do plugging stories on the behest of their corporate masters is trivially true, because that’s why they bought the networks in the first place. It ain’t much in the way of synergy, but it’s more than most mergers ever achieve.
If you want to know next week’s stories, you don’t need any psychic powers: just read The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. I guarantee that you will start noticing lots of duplication two or three days later on the nightly news programs.
And the entertainment side of the system will certainly be capable of being swayed by the blandishments of publicists or anyone who can deliver the stars that are bigger than the networks.
But. Yes, you know there had to be a but coming. But, you haven’t presented a single sentence of evidence that the actual news department controlled shows and magazines give “marketers with something to sell to us have what might be thought of as an inordinate level of influence on what is presented to us as the key news items of the day.” Not one particle.
If you have a case to make, go ahead and make it. I’ll be very curious to see what and how much solid evidence you can muster for it. And how and if you break it down among network news, network entertainment, cable news, local news, syndicated shows, and the other various pieces of broadcasting today, as they each have separate rules and validations.