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A SWAT for tearing down the walls between advertising and news

Submitted by on Thursday, 3 December 2009 No Comment

Once upon a time, in a land long ago and far away, news was news and ads were ads and never the twain did meet.

Oh, sure, the advertisers would try and occasionally succeed. I can’t tell you how heart-broken I was at one paper when the ad director’s car salesman boyfriend dumped her before we got around to doing the blowout she’d wanted on his family’s dealership. We just always seemed to busy to fit it in our schedule.

Even worse were the political movers and shakers who tried to use social connections to influence cover.

But all of that is so last week in Dallas at least, where the Morning News now has section editors reporting to sales managers instead of to the paper’s editor and managing editor. The sales force will “be working closely with news leadership in product and content development,” according to the blog Dallas Observer.

Can’t  you just feel the synergy sizzle?

It’s the “next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers,” according to a memo from the Morning News publisher.

Except those two missions are completely contradictory.

You cannot be a “trusted partner” with a restaurant and offer even-handed reviews that give people some idea of whether they want to eat there. You cannot “attract customers” for the Dallas Mavericks and tell “news consumers” what an embarrassment owner Mark Cuban’s mouth is. You cannot “retain customers” for local hospitals and doctors and expect readers to believe a word you say about the quality of care they’ll find.

And if you attempt it, you’ll be no different than bloggers who proclaim themselves “partners” with this big company or an “ambassador” for that huge manufacturer, all the while singing “we’re all in the together.”

No, we’re not. And that’s why the Federal Trade Commission, starting this week, is looking more closely as cozy relationships between companies and people who write about them. In the past, that type of scrutiny wouldn’t be needed of a mainstream media enterprise because there was this “never the twain shall meet” firewall.

That’s gone in Dallas. FTC, have at ‘em.

Morning News, Stop Wasting America’s Time by pretending you’re a newspaper. You’re just a revenue mill that killed your own credibility.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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