Separation of News and Advertising is Over

Journalists claim there is a wall between news and advertising.  

Somebody in the newsroom better inform the publisher and executive producer because that wall hasn’t been there for a long time.

With NBC Nightly News actively doing “news” segments on their own programming, NBC with their “Artist in Residence” program and promoting it on the Today Show and evening news, major market newspapers covering their own events and activities, etc., advertising and news have not been separate for a while, no matter what the editors and beat journalists say.

Sure, some organizations have a stronger line than others, but let’s face it, with traditional publishers dying faster than dinosaurs, that line is getting fuzzier all the time, and in many cases, it’s gone.

A local affiliate in the West Palm Market is selling “news packages,” produced by their news production crews, on products and services and showing it on their air as news during news programs.  They’re infomercials!  Guess they’re running out of car crashes to cover.

Boca Raton production companies, home to the infomercial industry, have been selling “news packages” to companies and claim that they air on PBS, Discovery, Lifetime, and other cable channels for over a decade.  They even have marquee named news hosts like Hugh Downs and others.

Think about the newspaper real estate section (when there was one). The “advertorial” that looks like news is written by the advertisers. Magazines sell display space and “content space” all the time – including Newsweek.  As a marketer, you can negotiate a cover for many magazines – all it takes is cash.  The line isn’t there let alone a wall.  And most in the public don’t know it.

They can have “Contents produced by the advertising department” on the page or website all they want, but very few read the fine print.  And that’s OK with both the publisher and advertiser.

I had to laugh when my 11 year-old daughter read a weekly column by a real estate editor 5 years ago and she looked at me in shock when she said, “Dad, this guy plagiarized your article!”  She had read the article on my laptop at home while I was working on it the week before.  The editor used it word-for-word.

I explained how that section of the paper worked.  As the director of marketing and public relations I spent a $ million a year advertising in that paper so they gave us columns with the editor’s byline, cover stories, and inside advertorials.  Then she said, “His picture shouldn’t be at the top of the article, yours should be.”

My daughter’s right.  Maybe we ought to stop faking it.   Honesty in the media?  That’s a novel idea.

What a Waste of Time and Taxpayer Resources

Bruce Patterson, a Republican state senator in Michigan, said that the critical role of journalists in promoting democracy demands that they be held to certain standards, including the possession of “good moral character,” and has introduced a bill seeking to have them licensed.

According to Fox News, reporters seeking accreditation under Mr. Patterson’s bill would need the following attributes:

– “Good moral character” and demonstrate they have industry “ethics standards acceptable to the board.”  [Who’s on the board?  Who sets the standards?]

– Possession of a degree in journalism or other degree substantially equivalent.  [Most college journalism programs are liberal laced propaganda mills so why would a Republican want this?]

– Not less than 3 years experience as a reporter or any other relevant background information. [Talk about an infinite loop – you can’t practice without a license so you’ll never get your 3 years.  How stupid?]

– Awards or recognition related to being a reporter. [Awarding organizations are set up to make money for the awarder.]

– Three or more writing samples.  [Who’s going to evaluate or judge the samples?  What criteria?]

According to Fox News, Mr. Patterson has no expectation that it will go anywhere.  He said he wants to provoke discussion on the quality of reporting.

Just to let you know that I’m not a party ideologue, Mr. Patterson, why are you wasting time and taxpayer resources on this? 

Doesn’t your state have a record-setting unemployment rate?  Don’t you already have major budget problems?  Maybe you should go back to your suburb and let the state legislature do some serious work.

50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected

I’ll never forget a professor at my journalism college that said to me, “You’ll never be a writer. I won’t allow you to represent this college as a writer that graduated from here.”

Then he proceeded to give me a “D” in a class I needed to graduate.  I never received less than an A in a writing class.  He was the only professor that taught the class.  University policy: you can’t graduate with a D, so a D was essentially a failing grade.  He had me in a vice-grip.

I eventually forgave him because he was a fool.  Don’t be mad at fools.  Don’t give them that power or control over you.

Of course it didn’t hurt that I went over his head to the Dean, a former Commander in the Navy and Viet Nam Vet, and the Dean allowed me to take the class again with a different professor grading my papers.

I retyped the exact same papers from the “failing” semester.  Got an A.

Turns out that the professor that worked to stop me from graduating was an extreme liberal and didn’t like that I wore a badge and uniform to class.  I was employed full-time as a lieutenant in the Marine Patrol.

The Marine Patrol Chief gave me a break to go to class during a flex-lunchtime so I could complete my last class in college and graduate.  There was no time to change before class.  I had to go “off the grid” on my two-way radio in the rescue truck and get back on right away after class to make the flex-time work.

This was in the 1970’s and most college professors hated the military or anyone in uniform.  Sounds like this century too.  He told me early in the semester that I shouldn’t be allowed to wear my uniform to class.

So this academic elitist decided to try and do me in.  That was in 1979.

Flash forward 10 years later.  I won a NY Film Festival Award in 1989 for producing a production that showed the world what the Web would be like when it went “live” in 1995.  It received international press, made the NY Times, and the production was shown on NBC’s Today Show and ABC’s Good Morning America.

I’ve been working as a professional writer, producer, and marketing/PR executive for over 30 years now with cover stories in PC Magazine, real estate magazines, dozens of newspapers, TV segments on Discovery Channel, and on and on.  Employers and clients include: IBM, Motorola, Pulte Homes, World Wildlife Fund, Icom, and hundreds of others.

The professor of nothing did exactly that.  He retired without ever creating a thing worth talking about and I’m positive his students didn’t learn anything from him.   Remember, I know, I had to take his class twice.

Moral of the Story

So many people have so many hidden agendas.  You may never know the real reason for criticism and rejection.  Sometimes it’s honest.  Many times it’s caught up in something that has nothing to do with you.  Move on.

Like every writer, I’ve been turned down on projects, received rejection letters, and suffered some disappointments.  Everyone does, not just writers.  But the positives of having productions win a $50 million account from the Vatican, a $1.2 billion order from the Premier of China, an International President Award from the World Wildlife Fund, plus many other successes, far outweigh the negatives.

Work hard at your craft.  Learn it.  Let your work speak for itself.  Wrestle it into submission to make it great and publish.  Don’t take no for an answer!  Be productive!  If you love your profession, you’ll be successful.

There are many others, more famous than you or I, that have been rejected before.  Click here to see the list and their stories:

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