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WBBM Radio: Give Us 22 Minutes, We’ll Read You AT&T Press Releases As “News”

Phillip Dampier August 25, 2011 AT&T, Audio, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, T-Mobile, Wireless Broadband No Comments

Small town media, always eager for an easy story to tell, is notorious for rewriting industry press releases and calling it news, but when a major “news radio” station in Chicago does it, it’s simply sloppy and embarrassing.

WBBM Radio decided AT&T’s merger with T-Mobile, announced several months ago, has suddenly become newsworthy.  Why?  Because AT&T has been sending out press releases touting the merger’s benefits for Illinois customers.

News that a merger with America’s fourth largest wireless carrier would suddenly bring widespread 4G coverage to communities large and small has become catnip for lazy reporters who never bother to research the claims.  Even AT&T’s attorneys are on a different page from AT&T’s public relations department.

But the extent of WBBM’s investigation by reporter Alex Degman began and ended with a proposed AT&T coverage map:

A coverage map of the proposed network coverage shows most of the state would indeed be covered, minus large sections of the Shawnee National Forest in southeastern Illinois and scattered pockets in west central Illinois. The merger is expected to be approved in January.

Degman’s report was little more than a disguised advertisement for AT&T, completely reliant on the company’s claims and ignorant of the fact AT&T would bring 4G service to anyone in WBBM’s local coverage area with or without T-Mobile.

Apparently there was no time for merger opponents.

WBBM Reporter Alex Degman “covers” the impact of the merger between AT&T and T-Mobile on Illinois. August 22, 2011. (1 minute)
You must remain on this page to hear the clip, or you can download the clip and listen later.

Listener Seth Weintraub was not impressed.

“Are you kidding?” Weintraub wrote. “Is AT&T writing your copy now?”

“How about reporting on the FCC document filings instead of unsubstantiated claims made by the company,” writes listener Patrick Dailey. “This is what is wrong with media today.”

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