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How Did 27 Stations End Up With Identical Scripts For a Story About Conan O’Brien?

Conan O’Brien poked fun at content-sharing in local news this week, showing a clip on his show of several anchors repeating the same phrase — “push the envelope” — while reporting on the late night host’s plans to officiate a same-sex wedding on his show.

The original source of the copy was CBS Newspath, according to staffers at two stations featured in the clip. Although “Conan” only showed 18 stations, a search of TVEyes.com reveals that 27 stations reported the story using identical wording (a full list, including markets and affiliations, is after the jump.)

The script was tease copy for Monday’s “Eye on Entertainment” package, filed by CBS Newspath correspondent Sandra Hughes. The full version reads: “Conan O’Brien may be about to push the envelope on late night television. And British songstress Adele seems to have pushed her voice too far. CBS’ Sandra Hughes has those stories and more, in your Monday morning ‘Eye on Entertainment.’”

South Bend’s WSBT, which was featured in the Conan clip, addressed the situation on the 6 a.m. newscast this morning, calling it the “dark secret” of the news business.

“We take wire copy and we try to rewrite it,” anchor Kirk Mason said. “In this case clearly many of us didn’t rewrite it well enough.”

All but four of the stations are CBS affiliates, and most are located in small markets, where production staff is usually smaller and can be stretched thin. CBS Newspath is a content provider for NNS, which is used by CBS, Fox and ABC affiliates, and is likely how the non-CBS stations ended up with the same copy.

The stations were:

WDJT Milwaukee, WI (CBS)

WNAC Providence (FOX)

WRBL Columbus, GA (CBS)

WTAJ Johnstown-Altoona-State College (CBS)

WMBD Peoria, IL (CBS)

WKYT Lexington, KY (CBS)

WSBT South Bend, IN (CBS)

WLFI Lafayette, IN (CBS)

WLNS Lansing, MI (CBS)

WHBF Davenport, IA (CBS)

WFMY Greensboro, NC (CBS)

WSAW Wausau, WI (CBS)

WUSA Washington, D.C. (CBS)

WWJ Detroit (CBS)

KBAK-KBFX Bakersfield, CA (CBS) (FOX)

KBOI Boise, ID (CBS)

KLBK Lubbock (CBS)

KFMB San Diego (CBS)

KGBT Harlingen, TX (CBS)

KGAN Iowa City (CBS)

KGWN Cheyenne, WY (CBS)

KLFY Lafayette, LA (CBS)

KLSR Eugene, OR (FOX)

KOTI Medford, OR (NBC)

KTAB Abilene, TX (CBS)

KVAL Eugene, OR (CBS)

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