NYT Covers Up Own Mistakes?

We don’t hand out our “Stinky Fish” awards–those given for the worst examples of journalism we can find–very often, but our nomination for worst newspaper article of the day has to go to the NYT’s David Barstow for a shallow piece in today’s paper on video news releases.

Barstow somehow manages to write up a new report from the Center for Media & Democracy that alleges widespread use of video news releases without actually naming a single one of the 69 stations that used them or talking to any of the news directors at the accused stations about their use of the controversial VNRs, prepared by companies like General Motors, Capital One, and Pfizer and then run as news stories without explaining their PR genesis.

The report, which “stunned” one FCC commissioner, found the 69 stations reach about half the population of the United States. The FCC’s Jonathan S. Adelstein, “called the cases in the report a ‘disgrace to American journalism’ and evidence of ‘potentially major violations’ of F.C.C. rules,” Barstow reports.

(None of the stations listed (PDF) are in DC, although two are in Virginia and two in Maryland, including Baltimore’s Fox WBFF, owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.)

Of course you’d think that somewhere in the 600-word story, you might find room to name one or two of the major stations involved or maybe call one of the news directors to talk about why they ran the VNR–or even if they admit doing so.

But then again, if you look at the list of stations, some answers emerge. There’s lots of Tribune Broadcasting stations, several News Corp stations, and a smattering of Sinclair’s stations. Oh and this little nugget: TWO of the accused stations are owned by the New York Times Company–Pennsylvania’s WNEP-TV and Alabama’s WHNT-TV.


> On the flip side, NPR’s David Folkenflik managed to actually report the story.