When we saw Mike Sugarman’s piece on KPIX-TV about Meg Whitman’s new media tactic — shooting video of campaign events, uplinking to a communications satellite and making the video available to TV stations throughout the state — we thought that was a pretty clever use of her vast resources.
A video news release (VNR) is really just the electronic version of a good old-fashioned press release. And if a campaign — or an officeholder — can afford it, why not distribute video? It’s really up to the TV stations to decide whether to use spoon-fed, edited material from a candidate or official, just like newspapers have to decide whether to publish press releases.
But then eMeg’s GOP opponent Steve Poizner unleashed spokesman Jarrod Agen to charge:
Meg Whitman crossed another line in this race by spending her millions to spread her campaign propaganda in tailored sound bites to news stations. This latest action from Meg Whitman of sending ‘Video News Releases’ to media outlets across the state is not only further proof that she cannot handle an unscripted environment, but it breaches the ethics of journalism. First it was staged town halls, now Meg Whitman is trying to buy positive coverage.
Democrat Jerry Brown’s complaint was no more sensible, although it was at least more succinct: “Meg Whitman isn’t just happy buying commercial breaks, now she’s trying to buy the newscasts, too.”
Yo! Crusty! You want some cheese with that whine?
Here’s the deal: The Whitman campaign is rolling in dough. They can afford to send a videographer on the road with their candidate. They can afford to rent a satellite truck and sat time and make B roll available to TV stations at the same time they’re offering one-on-one satellite interviews with those stations. What’s the problem?
Randy Shandobil of KTVU, the best TV reporter in the Bay Area, said he expects his station will likely ignore eMeg’s video feeds, unless there’s some extraordinary reason to use the footage and then it would be labeled as having been provided by the campaign.
Our old friend Dan Rosenheim, news director at KPIX-TV, pretty much endorsed that outlook. And he agreed with Calbuzz that there’s nothing unusual about candidates using every trick in the book to get coverage.
“The burden in this case is on the news organizations,” said Rosenheim.
The problem is this: small stations around the state with few resources will be sorely tempted to put up eMeg’s video as if it were their own and that’s just unethical. But as Rosenheim notes, that’s a challenge for the news outlets — not publicity-seeking candidates.
This is not the same thing, by the way, as producing and sending out phony news stories with actors pretending to be TV reporters and anchors — as Gov. Schwarzmuscle and former President Shrub tried. This is just packaged video footage.
In the meantime, Steve and Jerry would be advised to save their complaints for when eMeg really does go over the line.
Hey, a little bit of mold never hurt anybody: At a time when MSM journalists increasingly spend their days tweeting, Facebooking, You Tubing and otherwise digitally passing virtual time, it’s good to see somebody’s still doing some old fashioned reporting.
So we’re delighted to award a Calbuzz Gold Medal for Resourceful Reporting and Dumpster Diving to Alicia Lewis and Ashli Briggs, the two CSU Stanislaus students who uncovered the secret documents outlining Sarah Palin’s sweet deal to speak on campus in June.
It’s surely coincidental, of course, that the dynamic duo who pulled this stuff literally out of the trash are both political science majors, although any campaign looking for a couple of hungry young oppo research types could clearly do a lot worse.
The pair’s disclosures about the high-end perks Palin demands in exchange for showing up and blathering for an hour or so have made national news, despite the sad fact that they’ve had to share their 15 minutes with Leland Yee, the media windbag state senator from San Francisco.
A word of caution going forward for Lewis and Briggs (whom the university is now absurdly trying to demonize): this line of work can be dangerous. In the future, be sure to heed these dumpster diving best practices guidelines from All Things Frugal.
If you are going in the evening, you are going to need something to light up the dumpster. Some people carry a small flashlight. They attach a cord to it, and then hold it in their teeth to keep their hands free. Others wear a headlamp! You can find them at reasonable prices in the bike area of discount stores.
You need something to pull the stuff to you- some kind of pole with a hook at the end. A hoe works. You can also buy long poles that will pick up a quarter in the corner of an empty dumpster.
A basic first aid kit, in case you hurt yourself.
— Never climb into a Dumpster with Medical and Hazardous Waste. Anyone can throw out a needle that could jab you. Wear protective clothing.
— Lids that suddenly slam shut when windy.
— Sharp Objects.
— Icky stuff- like dead animals.
— Make sure that there are no ordinances that make this activity illegal in your area.