02
Feb
13

Advertising and Journalism

It’s common to be concerned with the media these days. It seems to many that it’s just not informative, or not concerned with the truth. Or perhaps we just don’t trust it or rely on it and us not trusting the media has made it impossible for it to investigate serious stories. 

Whatever the problem is, people have noticed that media has become much more like entertainment. This is something that I think is a very real and very prevalent fact about media. “News” content has become more designed to excite and amuse. Just go to buzzfeed.com if you don’t believe me, though of course it’s a little disingenuous for me to pretend that buzzfeed is a news source. 

I wonder what the connection between making news entertaining and journalistic ethics. I have not had enough time to read about this, so I’m in the dark, but here are my intuitions. On the one hand, I have this intuition that journalism is less and less a profession with conventions and standards of conduct and excellent. In one way, this might be good, since citizens can now participate in generating information for others without a potentially uninviting expertism serving as a barrier. On the other hand, should be worried that hoaxes like Manti Te’o (sp?) are becoming more and more common because the journalistic standards of “publications of repute” are degrading? 

The other intuition I have though is that it’s naive to think that journalists ever really obeyed a code of conduct that was particularly public spirited. Yellow journalism is my example of this. Also, newspapers in old presidential races used to, I believe, just make things up completely. 

But something is bugging me about the modern media environment, and I happened on this article today, which didn’t ease my anxiety. I found this article on the Atlantic.com’s site where it was flagged as affiliate (i.e., advertiser content) but it was still included in a section called “around the web” and this isn’t like buzzfeed’s strategy of making advertisements fit right in with normal content. But that’s the problem. What is “normal” content? If there are people out there who are just writing promotional pieces for corporations and newspapers are putting those articles in sections that are only half-concealed areas for “articles” that are in fact advertisements with paragraph stops, then it seems that the power of media will again be undermined because our trust in media will again be undermined. 

If consumers of information have a harder and harder time telling what is real, it seems that they will have to fight harder to learn things and will be easier targets for those organizations which can make their chosen message easy to stumble upon. 

I have the feeling that I’m not being very clear, and perhaps I’m being alarmist about nothing. Maybe the new media environment will make it more and more possible for an “honest” media company to flourish. One that, you know, at least checks to see if the people that it writes stories about are even real. 

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