Newspapers express advertorial concerns

Newspapers express advertorial concerns
In the wake of ethical finger-pointing at two television stations for programs, in which sponsors paid for news-like segments, comes concern over the newspaper equivalent — advertorials. An article in the online Editor & Publisher examines the Gannett practice of “custom publishing” at the Des Moines Register. These are special sections — which focus on areas such as home furnishings, health, and kitchens and baths — that are produced by the non-editorial custom publishing division. But, as the article points out:

A number of the Register’s special sections, however, have had nothing that explicitly identified them as an advertising product. A line at the top of the front page simply reads: “A Des Moines Register Custom Publication.” Although the sections’ typeface is different from the main newspaper, the layouts are eye-catching and featurey enough to possibly mislead some readers, minus the “paid advertising” tag.
Greater minds that mine have wrestled with the perils of journalistic ethics, but one thing that’s often overlooked in these discussions is the audience’s viewpoint. First of all, journalistic purity is an oxymoron, and the only people who don’t know it are those who look down their noses at others who are similarly self-deceived. Secondly, every recent survey shows journalists are below car salesmen in terms of public trust, and it has nothing to do with this crap about advertorials or “unethical” selling of one’s purity. While we’re on our mountain debating the need to separate ourselves from advertising, people are abandoning us in droves for those who wear their bias on their sleeve, regardless of who pays for it.

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