Should Local TV Reporters Disclose When They are Reciting Someone Else's Words?
It was something I noticed when I decided to take a closer look at the health reporting on local TV stations.
Often, stories would present sources without identifying where they lived. Or the piece would unfold over long minutes without showing the reporter with the subjects or at any of the locations.
For the educated viewer, these were giveaway clues: these anchors were likely voicing a script prepared somewhere else, using footage shot somewhere else. A few Google searches later, I found several stories where local health reporters had simply re-voiced stories, almost word-for-word, provided by news services such as Ivanhoe Broadcast News and Medstar Television.
Typically, the reporters don't reveal these sources in their pieces, which I think leads viewers to believe they are reporting these stories themselves. It's a practice TV stations have indulged for many years, but I've never felt it was totally honest with the viewer, so I wrote a column dissecting the issue for today newspaper.
I understand why it happens: TV stations want their health franchises to appear regularly -- usually too often to rely on stories turned by a single reporter. At WFTS-Ch. 28, health reporter Linda Hurtado also happens to be the station's 5:30 p.m. news anchor, which makes negotiating the workload a challenge. And producers have often written scripts for reporters and news anchors to voice.
But at a time when new outlets are handling more sources of information than ever, we'll have to be more careful about disclosing where that material comes from -- particularly when it involves taking stories wholesale which are repeated, word-for-word, at other stations.
Here's a story on the use of art to help those suffering from Alzheimer's disease that ran on WFTS.