The next great plague–Advertising
Advertising is everywhere. And it’s not leaving.
It seems the only way to completely eliminate companies pushing products to you is to delete all forms of digital communication. Other than that, it’s nearly impossible. Our phones, Facebook and Twitter accounts have become magnets for companies looking to sell us their crap. In the past, there was a definitive line between the news content and the advertising that helped support the newspapers. That’s completely gone now with sites allowing advertisers to write and publish directly to their site, generating revenue for hosts like Buzzfeed and the company as well.
This castration of the very fundamental basis of journalism is scary to see. Our entire code of ethics is based upon the removal of bias from our writing. But when a company is literally paying to write a column about their product, that will go right next to a legitimate news story, how can we take that paper as a credible news source? This blurring of the lines means only one thing, the code of ethics for journalism needs to be rewritten. But can we create a code that is substantial enough to guide us, yet relaxed enough to allow this kind of advertising-based “journalism”?
It’s impossible for me to understand how this can happen without destroying the foundation of journalism as a whole. For those of us who wish to remain separated from the hand that feeds us, allowing us to do our work in a clear and unbiased manner, we’re dead in the water. Why would these major companies continue to sponsor our work when we refuse to give them a good review, or even worse, we give them a bad one? Either some concessions need to be made on the part of journalists, or we need to return to college and find a new job. It sounds incredibly cynical, but the reality of the matter is; it’s unrealistic to think that companies will pull the reigns when dealing with journalism and advertising simply because a code of ethics is in place.
The main idea the industry needs to concede to is the principle of separation between ads and news. While the “great wall” between the marketing and editorial departments is gone, journalists and their outlets can still be a credible source of news. To do so, we have to continue to fight the want to earn a quick buck and spot-ad companies. Finding different sources of income is going to be a big challenge for papers and news websites alike, but in the future they’re going to need to push away from content based advertising, otherwise we will be come another branch of public relations firms.