Which means there is no such thing as an article being influenced by ANYTHING -- especially not an amount of money paid to my publication in the form of an advertisement.
That was no problem for me to learn and accept because I thought nobody in the right mind would expect anything less from a reporter.
Well what do you know? I was wrong – duh.
Today, many local newspapers and magazines (you know who you are) condone some form of ‘paid editorial’ – which basically means if you’re willing to buy an ad, the reporter’s willing to write an article which is favourable to you, regardless of whether that is the truth or not.
In fact, I’ve heard that reporters nowadays come straight out and ask interviewees: “Would you like to buy an ad?”
Which goes against the journalist’s code of ethics. Here’s an example of such a code according to The New York Times.
“72. The Times treats advertisers as fairly and openly as it treats readers and news sources. The relationship between The Times and advertisers rests on the understanding, long observed in all departments, that news and advertising are strictly separate — that those who deal with either one have distinct obligations and interests and neither group will try to influence the other.
73. Members of the news department should maintain their disinterest and objectivity by avoiding discussions of advertising needs, goals and problems except where those needs or problems are directly related to the business of the news department.”
I really hope I won’t have to take more calls ‘encouraging’ me to write something because someone’s considering advertising in my publication. Sometimes, these people even mention that other magazines are offering them a cheaper ad price – like I should care, seriously!
We’re a business and we know how important advertising dollars are. But we also know our readers – you are intelligent, discerning professionals who are in the business of buying and selling and creating advertising so you can smell an ad five miles away.
If one day you read something I wrote and you can sniff the distinctive scent of paid editorial off it, that’s the day you lose trust in my reporting, and that’s the beginning of the end for my publication.
A fellow publisher once admitted to me she accepts ‘support’ from advertisers for her articles on them. Call it whatever you want, lady, but it’s all the same thing.
Some publications which practice editorial integrity include the Financial Times, TIME, Businessweek, The Economist and MIS Asia. I’m sure there are many more but for every one that upholds the code, there are five more that don’t.
The ones that uphold the code.