One of the problems with VNRs is that many stations–who are indeed trying to present the news–are also trying to fill their newscasts [Hot Type, April 28]. Whether due to being in a small market where there just isn’t much out there to fill 22 minutes or being in any market where the ownership has cut the news budget to the bone, leaving very few producers and reporters to cover what may actually be out there, a VNR can be a lifesaver to a news director. Of course, as your article points out, it isn’t so much using the VNR that’s a problem, but using it without any disclosure/attribution.

There’s a lot of “slippery slope” stuff involved here. How many small papers routinely run press releases as news without any of the hue and cry accompanying the use of VNRs? Is one practice worse than the other? How much of the VNR do you have to use as B-roll before you have to disclose/attribute its source?

I think there are some interesting issues which could have been addressed by the SPJ [Society of Professional Journa-lists] had they not been so closed minded about Smith’s proposal.

Tim Howe