Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Separation of Editors and Advertisers

By: Ashley Gammella

With a changing model of journalism and increasing economic constraints, editors from every medium are faced with growing financial responsibilities and internal conflicts. These conflicts often involve what the proper relationship between editorial content and sales is. The article Taking Care of Business compares the relationship between news content and advertisements to the separation of church and state. The lines between the separation of church and state are continuously disputed and blurred, as are the lines between the newsroom and advertorial content. There is no standard rule that each publication abides by when it comes to mixing editorial and advertorial content. The article The Squeeze details how major companies are able to control the content of a publication they advertise in. The very idea of this appalls me. Just because a publication may print a story about a controversial or tough topic, should not be grounds for an advertiser to demand a copy prior to release. I feel that advertisers should not have so much control over content and should not be able to pick and choose where their ads appear in a publication.

There are different levels of informing advertisers about content. I do not think they should be given access to content prior to publication, but I see no harm if they are informed of some of the stories that will run in order to coordinate the advertisements better. I see no issue if advertisers are informed of certain story ideas that could benefit their advertisements because it aids their job and boosts revenues. It is crucial to work in collaboration if a story can include beneficial advertisements, thus increasing the revenue of advertisers and in turn the publication. For example, if there were a story about bridal fairs, it would make sense to alert the advertisers to this, so they could advertise flowers or formal chairs around that article. I see no ethical breech with this kind of conduct, but have a big problem when advertisers are given copy prior to release or are able to control content and say certain stories are a “no go.”

I think it is unacceptable for writers to directly report to a sales department, as is the new policy of the Dallas Morning News. It is important to maintain a good relationship with advertisers for revenue, however transparency with the public is also crucial. As the article News for Sale points out People who sell the time can't be touching the news product…that's the long-term integrity of our stations." This is a true statement and it is important to use a variety of sources and not just those who advertise in your publication.

I think that to maintain trust and credibility editors have to walk a very thin line in the future. If this is accomplished, there is no reason that these two different areas cannot be married harmoniously.

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