Journalists as prostitutes


2477 Gruen 3
Russel Howcroft (Advertising agency PwC, at right): “You would definitely use local press, though. You’d probably use it in a public relations sense.”
2477 Gruen 7Dee 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.
2477 Gruen 5And 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
Dear Erwin,
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.
Nick Murray


  1. Have you also asked “Media Watch” Erwin?
    I think it is fair to discuss with an editor the newsworthiness of new technology when advertising a particular brand of that technology.
    For example if a solar installation company was advertising with you and you wrote editorial around the benefits of installing solar, how much solar was installed, how much more could be accommodated or even quoting somebody who thought it was an error to install more solar.
    That would not be endorsing the particular brand or installer.

  2. And yet it seems that personal opinion colouring an article is perfectly OK.
    This is possibly why I was told along time ago “reporters report news without bias and journalists write gossip” or is that too harsh.

  3. @ “Laurence”: This piece is clearly labelled as “Comment” as are all our (very few) comment pieces.
    @ Richard Bentley: To make the placement of advertising conditional upon a “good editorial” is corrupt – on the part of the accepting medium as well as the advertising client. There are no ifs nor buts.
    To both of you: We will continue our impeccable journalistic standards, to your benefit and that of our tens of thousands of readers (for example, 21,884 in the 30 days to September 3).
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor

  4. Makes me think of the quote, rightly or wrongly attributed to Orwell:
    Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.

  5. Dear Nick, The Gruen is treading on thin ice pointing the ABC finger at regional newspapers for alleged bias.
    The ABC goes out of its way to head hunt opinion columnists and presenters of the Left persuasion and stacks its major news slots with an anti-right wing slant.
    Every time I turn on the ABC channel I find the darlings of the left being interviewed, being asked dorothy dix questions that relentlessly push one side of topics of the moment.
    Regional media bias for ads (ie corruption) is small beer compared with Aunty’s biased use of taxpayers’ money.
    And who says prostitutes are well paid? Perhaps in the high class brothels of the inner city near the ABC’s offices, maybe.
    But out here in the real world, myriads of unfortunate lasses who find themselves selling their bodies because of traumatic domestic lives are paid peanuts and are abused shamefully.
    From what I have read about the plethora of obscenely-paid journo fat cats at the ABC, most prostitutes would gladly swap their day/night jobs.


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