Monday, May 19, 2008

News vs. advertising

I received a call this morning from a man who owns a cattle ranch near Cayucos. On the ranch is a home he rents to tourists who want to experience the ranching life. Such agritourism is a new way for ranchers to make some extra money from their main asset, their land. This caller was hoping we might do a story on his home and the piece of country he offers city slickers.
We often get these kind of calls. Our local news editors, Executive Editor Sandy Duerr and myself are targeted by business people who either suggest that stories be written about their enterprises, or they offer to write special columns for our readers, usually in a specific field, like money management or medicine.
Journalistically, we cannot promote one business at the expense of not writing about others in the same field. Nor can we let one business person have a speciality column when that person's competitors would not be granted such a status. If we did allow such coverage, we would be promoting that business owner over others. Journalistically, that is unfair, and the information is suspect.
Advertising, by contrast, is all about marketing one business or specialist. Someone spends their own money to buy space in our pages for their promotion.
This is a basic concept, but it is interesting how often I get asked by readers why we cannot "do a write up" about a certain commercial enterprise. We can't because it would be the wrong thing to do.
_ Tad Weber


Anonymous said...

What do you call biz buzz? Writing about one business at the expense of others.

For instance, today you write about the Best Western in Shell Beach. I am sure the Cliffs up the street would like to have been mentioned.

Noreen is a great person and all of her endeavors deserve coverage. It does not matter that she is a friend of Sandy's. So don't act like you won't write about a business. It's ok to support. I did not say pander but supporting local business should be acceptable.

moquiti said...

The Trib published a fluff biz piece on Debbie Arnold's family business before the 5th district campaign heated up, and it was written by (surprise!) her cousin (Switzer) who works @ the Trib.

How does that fit into your definition of Journalism, Mr. Weber?

Stella said...