Thursday, May 14, 2009


Laura Marczika

I thought the Columbia Journalism Review article, “The Squeeze,” by Russ Baker was very interesting and outlined a catch-22 between media outlets and advertisers. The article detailed editors’ ethical dilemma between unbiased editorial content and the ever-growing financial need to stay in their advertisers’ good graces in this time of economic hardship.

The problem with censoring editorial content to please advertisers is that the output of the media outlet is compromised by the advertisers’ guidelines for their sponsorship; however without substantial advertising dollars media outlets struggle to stay afloat. So, where do we, as journalists, draw the line

As a journalist hoping to have a future in advertising, specifically media planning and buying, this question perplexes me. I believe that a courtesy call to an advertiser about content they could potentially object to is ethical IF the content is not changed under any circumstances,. The advertiser simply has the option to pull their advertising space if they so wish. Advertisers pay a lot of money to place their ads, so I understand their weariness of being placed next to unfavorable content.

I don’t think the courtesy call should be a question to the advertiser of permission to run the story, instead simply a heads up about the content in case they decide to withdraw insertions for that issue. Where I draw the line on this subject is when advertisers and their products influence editorials and the range of topics covered in a publication. I think the American Society of Magazine Editors’ effort to keep content unbiased by refusing to submit story summaries to advertisers is admirable – I’m just not sure how feasible and promising this strategy will prove if some editors bend to pressure OR advertisers withhold large sums of advertising dollars as boycott.

I also thought an interesting aspect of this story was the critique of ads that look similar to editorials. I actually think these ads are completely ethical, especially because they are required to state “ADVERTISEMENT” in capital letters at the top of the advertisement. I think that creating ads that look similar to editorials is an extremely clever way to create ads that stand out in the clutter.

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