Tuesday, April 19, 2005

More sordid tales from "journalism"

The Wall Street Journal has a great story today about how those consumer "experts" who show up on local and national TV news shows are, of course, being paid by companies whose products they mention.

These "experts" charge companies thousands of dollars to support the "satellite media tours" they do on local newscasts throughout the country. They don't charge for appearances on "Today" and "Good Morning America" because of the networks' tighter disclosure policies, and somehow they can stay untainted, they say.

The responses come down in two categories:
  • "Cleueless" news directors/producers/spokesmen and spokeswomen who say they had no idea this was happening and by golly it should have been disclosed, and they'll get right on it.
  • The "experts" themselves who say they can separate church and state, such as Corey Greenberg, NBC's electronics expert. Quoting the Journal:
Mr. Greenberg defends his local paid work, saying he's providing valuable news to consumers. He says he wouldn't do paid work for a product he didn't believe in. Mr. Greenberg says his business resembles a magazine that collects money from advertisers and then reviews products marketed by the same companies. He says he can maintain a wall between his business and editorial practices. "I'm a one-man magazine," he says.
The companies making the payments are quite open about what they expect: Mention of their products, and that includes on the national shows.

Just one more nail in the coffin of credibility, to go along with news organizations like AP that also produce video news releases, and capitol news reporters whose businesses also take payments to do PR work from the state government they're covering, and those "Ask the Expert" colums in newspapers and on TV Web sites that are nothing more than paid ads.

Yep, the public is stupid, right? Which is why so many fewer are getting their news from these news organizations?


At 4/19/05, 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buzz Merritt, former editor of Knight Ridder's Wichita Eagle, has a new book out called "Knightfall" documenting the rise of corporate journalism at papers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer, and the San Jose Mercury News. There's an excerpt online at Poynter.


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