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When Press Releases become news stories: City of Grand Rapids sends Press Release on forum about new GRPD Chief, local TV stations regurgitate Press Release as news

January 7, 2022

As we have noted over the years, local news media often regurgitates Press Releases and passes it off as news. This essentially means that news agencies end up being stenographers and not reporters. Such practices is highly problematic, especially when it has to do with Press Releases that come from centers of power.

The most recent example is a City of Grand Rapids Press Release about a forum they are hosting to allow the public an opportunity to hear from a few of the pre-selected candidates to be the next Chief of Police in Grand Rapids. Both WOODTV8 and WXMI Fox 17 “reported” on the police chief forum, but both ended up running a version of the Press Release. Here we provide a side by side example of the City’s Press Release and the WXMI Fox 17 News story.

You can see that the Fox 17 News story is simply a shortened version of what the City of Grand Rapids sent out. This is not journalism, it is simply stenography. If local news agencies chose to actually do real journalism in the case, they might have done some of the following things:

  • Interview other people from the community, particularly organizations or movements that have been challenging the legitimacy of the GRPD.
  • Do their own homework on Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc. and found out that they have been contracted to find a new Chief of Police, which is what we reported on last October.
  • Question why the City of Grand Rapids will only allow the public to have limited access to the Police Chief Candidates that have been pre-selected by Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc.
  • Local news agencies could also hold their own forums, especially broadcasters, since they operate using airwaves that is technically to serve the public interest. Occasionally, local TV stations will host candidate forums, so hosting a forum on policing that is independent of the managed way the City does public engagement, would actually be a more democratic way to get the public involved in making critical decisions in Grand Rapids.

If we don’t demand more of local government or local news agencies, they we will get the same old managed forms of “civic engagement”, which is really just a tactic by those in power to present the illusion that they give a shit about what the public thinks.

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