Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unbiased Journalism?

Courtney Hessenauer

I never noticed advertising conflicting with journalism until I began to pay attention to it in the broadcast realm. Just recently, it became clear that most of the stories put on air are positively related to the advertising on the station. For example, I have never seen anyone run a story that would negatively impact an advertiser. My analysis may not necessarily be true for all on-air broadcasts, but I think it is a common situation. More often than not, companies want to remain on good terms with the people providing them money, and therefore only positive publicity will be aired.
While reading "The Squeeze," I was shocked by the message sent out by Chrysler's ad agency to pre-approve anything about Chrysler before it airs, good or bad. It left me with some questions:
  • Are we reverting back to a form of censorship?
  • Doesn't this defeat the purpose of unbiased journalism when we have to approve stories with our advertisers and sponsors to make sure they are not negatively impacted?
  • How does this define what is newsworthy?
I think that it makes more people concerned with finances as opposed to getting the news out. I found a recent article in the New York Times suggesting that journalists form a better relationship with advertisers, later saying, "That does not mean yielding editorial control to sponsors, but..." The article encourages journalists to realize that advertising is where the money is. I know that some forms of media are struggling, but to ignore the purpose of journalism for a profit is not ethical in the journalism world.
I conducted a little experiment: A simple search on NBC4's website in Columbus and I found that Chevy is an advertiser. Then, I typed in "Chevy" in the search bar to get all inquiries and articles that included Chevy. Although there were hundreds of results, not one article from this year had to do with the company itself. Many of them mentioned people in car accidents who were driving Chevy's. I found it interesting that the car was mentioned in these types of articles, and that out of many articles, there was not a negative light on the car company at all. This is becoming more and more common for news stations.
I could not agree more with the News for Sale article. One person mentioned in the article, "when it comes time to deliver news, the lawyers and ad reps make the decisions." This is becoming more and more common as journalism is now seen as a business opposed to a "social mission" as mentioned in The Online Journalism Review. There is a fear that the profit model may take over the mission of journalism to get the word out and inform. The change in the relationship between journalism and advertising may cause us to be a little more biased, a change in the wrong direction.

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