COMMENT by ERWIN CHLANDA
Russel Howcroft (Advertising agency PwC, at right): “You would definitely use local press, though. You’d probably use it in a public relations sense.”
Dee Madigan (Advertising agency Campaign Edge, at left): “Only to get good editorial. You put an ad in a local paper only if they give you good editorial.”
Howcroft: “That’s right.”
This is how, without an ounce of shame, members of the supposed creme de la creme of our advertising industry admitted to turning journalists into prostitutes.
And there was not a murmur of dissent from the other people on the panel of last night’s Gruen on ABC TV, Todd Sampson, Christina Aventi (Advertising agency BMF) and Presenter Wil Anderson (at right).
Honourable journalists consider themselves bound by the following principles of the Journalistic Code of Ethics: “They shall not allow their professional duties to be influenced by any consideration, gift or advantage offered and, where appropriate, shall disclose any such offer.
“They shall not allow advertising or commercial considerations to influence them in their professional duties.”
To exchange editorial for advertising corrupts the profession. That it is a widespread practice does not change this.
With the Turnbull Government is creating a $60m one-off fund for small media, it would be proper to have up front in the allocation criteria the weeding out of such corrupt conduct.
And this should apply to big media as well, beginning with some of the advertising spend by governments.
As we’ve printed under our masthead for the past quarter century: “The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.”
Despite all that threatens the free press at the moment, it remains the major bulwark in our society against abuses of power. Don’t let it be contaminated: the trash can or the delete button are great weapons against corrupt journalism.
Alice Springs News Online has invited Gruen to comment.
UPDATE September 15, 12:47pm
I am the Executive Producer of Gruen. For a start, I’m not sure it is correct to say that Dee and Russel were referring to publications such as the Alice Springs News when they talked about local newspapers. My understanding is they were referring to suburban local press.
From the show’s point of view, it is not for us to critique the commercial practices of suburban local papers. The segment was not about that.
Indeed what the panel was imparting was their actual real life experience. Their professional opinion is that some papers are attaching editorial coverage to paid advertising. (It is well known for instance that this occurs with real estate advertising in many local papers.)
So while not besmirching the reputation of the Alice Springs News, it appears there are other papers in other parts of Australia which do follow this practice. That is the take home. We make no comment on journalists’ responsibilities.
Finally, it’s probably a stretch to imply in the headline that we suggested journalists are prostitutes. Journalists covering the kind of story Dee and Russel referred to may not even be aware that there is any advertising attached to a story. (Plus I know journalists unfortunately aren’t paid nearly as well as prostitutes!)
But thanks for watching. There are lots of other good topics coming up.