Blake Fleetwoord, the author, elaborates on this assertion saying that newspapers are at their advertiser’s discretion regarding reporting news that will create publicity for the advertising company. Often, newspapers will either bribe advertisers by saying they will water-down negative articles, or fluff up positive/reinforcing articles in exchange for an increase in sponsorship and advertising revenue. Other times, it results in a newspaper not publishing a story at all in fear that the advertisers will withdraw their financial funding.
The author describes this phenomenon through the analogy of a penetrable “broken wall”. This analogy portrays the increasing separation between advertiser support and editorials in the newsroom.
Some organizations that typically advertise in newspapers carry a significant amount of weight in the news process. These companies include airlines, car dealerships, vacation destinations and more. These types of companies have wisely invested financial support into the newspapers to ensure that their monopolies of dominating the media, and society as a whole, go untarnished. Due to the intimidating factor, it is next to impossible for reporters to write about frauds, scandals, or flaws in their advertisers products and business expenditures because they fear they respond by cutting the funding that the newspaper desperately need.
The author also expands on another manipulating technique used by newspapers called ‘puffing for profit’. This method is typically seen in the travel and entertainment sections of the newspaper and describes how hotels, airlines, cruise ships, tourist destinations etc. will give reporters a special treatment in exchange for a very positive report – showing only the positives.
The significant problem with watering down the severity of a situation, puffing up an experience, or completely omitting a report is that we, as consumers, are not getting the full truth. Mike Meyers, a veteran reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, stated an analogy of the ethics of reporting by saying, “You would be an idiot if you went to a doctor who only told you what you wanted to hear. Reporters have to tell readers what they need to hear.”
I understand that the budget is tight for the newspaper companies as their readership has decreased 30% since 1960, but what happened to unbiased reporting? Maybe this is what the more recent media’s impact has amounted to. As magazines, Cable TV, websites on the internet and other news sources are also seeking advertiser support, the competition has dramatically increased. Maybe having too many sources for news has created a world where the media we receive rests in the hands of who is willing to pay more for their side to be published. I hope this isn’t the case, because otherwise consumers will have no choice in which “doctor” they see. Just as the president of The American Society of Newspaper Editors, Edward Seaton, states, “Without Ethics there is not quality. Without quality there is no credibility. Without credibility there is no future.”