Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
strategic communication professionals have specific ethical standards they must
follow to bring truth and build trust with their consumers. However, according to
study discussed in class, journalists and advertising practitioners are
rated significantly low on their honest and ethical standards.
In fact, only one in
five Americans say they trust that advertising is honest in its claims most of
the time and 13 percent say they never trust the claims. Journalists rate a
little higher than advertising practitioners on their honesty and ethical
standards. However, these professions rank low compared to nurses, doctors and
even police officers.
and advertising are based on the premise that all forms of communication should
always do what is right for consumers. These professions aim to build trust and
transparency to truthfully inform consumers. With ratings of low ethical
standards, this causes a challenge for professionals in those fields.
The Ethical Problem
The increase of social
media and new technology has blurred the lines between commercial communications
and editorial content. Consumers are often being misled and treated unethically
if they are unaware the “news” or “entertainment” they are viewing is actually
advertising. This poses the ethical problem of misleading advertising since
consumers attach more creditability to news content than paid advertising.
Often times, when I
scroll through my news feed, where I receive my news and entertainment, I see
sponsored advertising posts. These advertising posts, known as native
advertising, are used to catch the attention of the viewer by blending in with
viewer’s original content. When I notice sponsored posts on social media, they
are usually marked as an ad.
Sometimes when I am
browsing social media, I see misleading content that looks like a news story
but once opened says sponsored by a company. This has happened to me on
Buzzfeed, since they combine advertising and editorial content on one platform.
Once the article is opened, I can see the ‘sponsored content’ label that
indicates this story was sponsored by a paying company. As a
consumer of editorial content, I am misled into reading an article sponsored by
The Problem with Native Advertising
Critics of native
advertising argue that it infringes on the barrier that separates the editorial
and business sides of journalism. This has become more of an issue with the
increasing amount of media sources, especially social media. Just open your
Twitter or Facebook feed to see advertising hiding within your entertainment or
Critics also argue that
native advertising must be clearly labeled because the blurred line between the
two threatens the media’s creditability. However, media companies have wildly
adopted native advertising as a way to catch consumers off guard by blending
the ads within news and entertainment content that the viewer actually wants to see.
Build Consumer Trust Back
If journalists and
advertising practitioners want to gain their consumers' trust, they should make
an effort to clearly label all sponsored content within the editorial content. These two professions should be seen as credible since they are constantly communicating messages to consumers. To gain their consumers' trust back, media sources must work at clearly distinguishing the difference between editorial content and advertising.