Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Booyah: Every media outlet has its price

Pat Holmes

If you asked Stuart Scott whether or not he took orders from Mickey Mouse, he might speak in some sort of strange street lingo you don't quite understand, he might laugh it off or he might even do a cute improvisational touchdown dance.

Booyah. Hey, two out of three ain't bad.

But if you gave the lazy-eyed ESPN veteran a second to think about the question, though, he would probably look you in the eye with one of his own and say, "Unfortunately, yes."

His realization is one that he wouldn't be happy to admit, as he, like many anchors, stations and newspapers alike have all sold their soul to the devil (err, advertisers, that is). They are not only owned by few gargantuan media conglomerate devils, such as Disney or General Electric, but can also be directly effected by small time sponsors on a micro, day-to-day basis.

In a 1997 article from RussBaker.com, Baker uses a letter written from Chrystler's ad agency to about 50 magazines regarding the publications' content to prove a point about the presence of business' control over media:

"Each and every issue that carries Chrysler advertising requires a written summary outlining major theme/articles appearing in upcoming issues."

Are they allowed to do that? Well, sure. Somebody has to pay the bills and daddy needs a new pair of shoes.

To survive, media outlets need advertising.

Does this present an ethical dilemma? Sure. Does this relationship between advertisers and media outlets directly effect the outlet's content? Most definitely (as Jon Stewart so eloquently points out in the clip below from the Daily Show).

Over the years, journalists have taken their respective stands, and stayed true to their respective morals and ethical standards. An American Journalism Review article from 2001 highlights the plight of Tom Grant, an investigative journalist from Spokane, Washington who left his position to avoid content control:

"Grant's parting shot publicly confirmed what many viewers have long suspected about the influence of advertisers on news content. It's real, and it may be growing."

While Grant's act was courageous, realistically it doesn't mean a thing. Money drives the business. It is a harsh, but very true reality. Bowing to corporate sponsors keeps the business alive.

Somewhere, Mickey Mouse is telling Stuart Scott to fetch him a chicken sandwich with some waffle fries - for free.
As unforgivable as it might be, it is the way of the world right now for media outlets everywhere who are already facing severe budgetary woes.


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