Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In the news, the 'Red Light District'

by Brenda Norrell

Ok, so you have your favorite newspaper in hand and you're reading along and something just doesn't feel right in your gut.
The words all look pretty, but something just seems all wrong.
You may have just entered the news media's "Red Light District."
It is an embarrassing secret of publishers, editors and reporters, one that they do not want to talk about.
Instead of happening on street corners, it happens this way.
A reporter gets a call from the editor. The editor tells the reporter to write an article about a business that the newspaper has just received a large sum of money from, for an advertisement.
Of course the article has to be as sweet-smelling as a newly-opened white rose in spring, as pure as the first flakes of freshly-fallen snow.
The reporter tells the editor that this is a violation of the ethics of journalism, that this is tantamount to becoming a news whore.
The editor gives the reporter two choices, either write the article or ... Well, actually there's only one choice, write the article or lose the job.
Usually reporters write the article. They swallow their pride, ethics and reasons for becoming a journalist in the first place. They sink a little lower into the abyss and rationalize all the way to payday.
Usually these articles are found in the business or economy sections. These are easy to spot, just look at the advertisements and compare those to the articles. However, sometimes the articles are written in hopes of selling a big ad. So, in those cases, the ad may never materialize.
In either case, one thing is for certain, few readers know that they have just been had.
Below this reporter-for-hire-for-advertising-dollars deceit, hovers another dark scenario, the sinister truth of the news business.
From promoting war to praising politicians, the dark world of the inner nucleus of newspapers is scarier than most sci-fi movies. Here there are monsters, rising from the darkness of loose money and unbridled power.
Publishers and editors won't publish news that might interfere with their large advertising accounts or attract the wrath of powerful politicians.
In the worst case scenario, publishers and editors protect corrupt politicians and the people they party with. There's favoritism to barter and promotion of legislators who can make certain things happen in Washington.
And yes, some editors and publishers even change the facts. Like highly-paid press officers, they maneuver, placing high spins on the truth that is bought and sold.

1 comment:

brian said...

great post. definitely linking to this, and adding your site to our list of ones we like.

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