Currently, there are more individuals working in the public relations industry than in journalism, making it much easier for a PR professional to promote their company (Stauber and Rampton 183). Journalists are facing a shortage of resources and finances, forcing them to rely on corporately-funded news as a replacement. Journalism should be a tool that allows citizens to obtain accurate information, but the influence of a corporation sways this system to present news with a motive.
In Toxic Sludge is Good for You, Stauber and Rampton reveal the various ways in which the PR industry attempts to manipulate the public with a video news release. They state that, “The use of radio and video news releases is a little-known practice… PR firms discovered that they could film, edit and produce their own news segments… and that broadcasters would play the segments as ‘news’…” (Stauber and Rampton 184). What does this say about our culture? A video news release presents news that serves as an advertisement instead of hard facts, showing society that buying power is more important than accurate knowledge. The public is naïve to the purpose of a VNR, and is not perturbed by the fact that it is being fed corporately-funded news. Audiences also learn to rely on a logo to trust a source, assuming that the news they are receiving from a VNR is correct. The VNR shows us that we are unaware of what is real and fake, which leads to a very fictitious culture. When we see such fiction so often, certain myths and stereotypes begin to make sense and become culturally acceptable with the VNR.
What are the societal implications of corporately-funded news in this fictitious culture? When the straight facts are not reported to the public, there is a shortage of real knowledge. If consumerism takes over journalism, there will be a severe lack of accurate data and information in the global sphere. Without correct knowledge, how can the public make informed decisions about important issues such as health care, education, and politics? With corporate news, the public simply cannot differentiate between what is true and what is false, resulting in poorly made choices about crucial topics. Citizens will be blinded by the imperceptible devices that PR specialists use to manipulate viewers. Furthermore, the VNR detracts from the news that is not corporately sponsored, which means more attention will be paid to manufactured news. The hard news broadcasters will be left with a very small audience, and will close if they cannot compete with those who transmit the VNR. With this, there will be no outlet for real news to be disseminated to the public, and no way for people to obtain true facts.
The news that we receive is manufactured and prevents us from making informed decisions about important issues. Corporate news is a popular trend because it benefits countless corporations, the economy, and the PR industry. Consequently, the public will spend more time deciding on what products to buy, rather than on the critical issues challenging society. As members of a culture that receives corporate news, we need to become more aware and conscious of such news, and learn to recognize the signs of a VNR. If we do not express ourselves, the corporation will always win because we have consented to hegemony. Voicing an opinion on corporately-funded news will enable us to better perceive our culture and make educated decisions about our future.
Stauber, John, and Sheldon Rampton. Toxic Sludge is Good for You. Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.