Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Payola Is Creeping Into The News Media

Since I am involved in getting clients news media coverage and in working with the media, I am limited by what I can reveal here but I feel it important enough to expose.

The news media has compromised itself in a number of ways, and it has been going on for a long time. Some editorial departments are influenced by its advertisers, no doubt. Few bite the hand that feeds them and many will do anything to nurture a favorable relationship with profit-makers. Others are impacted by the political views and financial dealings of its ownership and editorial management. Further, journalists are impacted by the policy set by the key shareholders. Some conglomerates fill their airtime with promotions of its own properties (ie a network morning show will plug its own network’s reality or late night show in a way that is disproportionate to its news value). All of this, as sad as it is, is true for many media outlets. But now there are media outlets who blatantly charge to have a guest interviewed on their television or radio show. Yes, payola.

Don’t get me wrong, the Today Show is not asking for money, but there are some local and syndicated TV and radio programs from across the country that demand anywhere from $200 to $4,000 and up for a guest appearance.

I know of at least a half-dozen such outlets, but there are more. It’s one thing to pay a publicist to help you get media exposure and be your advocate; it is another to directly pay the media to get interviews that are passed on to unsuspecting and uninformed consumers (viewers and listeners) as if no money exchanged hands.

We cannot have the voice of a free press selling out to the highest bidder. Selling ad space is one thing. Presenting news as anything but is fraudulent. We need an honest media to keep the rest of us honest, to be a check on – and informant of --the world of government, corporations, and community activists.

There are also shows that buy airtime from stations and networks and then resell portions of the space to people who want to be guests of what they think are real shows but in reality are just infomercials

Then there are advertorials in print, which try to look and sound like legitimate articles when they are just ads neatly laid out like a story. More bullshit for the masses.

Then there are paid newswires that distribute stories to the media and often get posted on various Web sites. They look like legitimate stories to the unsuspecting reader.

The media is struggling financially and competition for ad dollars and readers-viewers-listeners is fierce. With all of this diverse media available to us, however, is an increased chance for ads to be passed off as news. Look out for payola!

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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