College Media News / ethics

Not the sort of innovation we need

Update 2: another take from the Daily Cal.

The Daily Bruin at UCLA ran a “wrap” advertisement around their paper today. Ordinarily, I have no problem with “innovative” advertising ideas (well, except for those cursed roll-over web ads), but this ad went way beyond “innovative” and ventured into the area of “deceptive” and “unethical.”

Here’s the real Bruin front page:

bruin

And here’s the “wrap” that ran today:

fake front

Now, I don’t know about you, but, with the exception of the “Paid Advertisement” words below the flag, that’s a pretty close knock-off of the editorial design of the real Daily Bruin (the editorial staff did get the advertiser to change the font on the nameplate of the ad). All to market some kind of honey-related ice cream crap.

The student editors weren’t pleased, and said so in an editorial:

Many of us volunteered to forfeit our pay in order to ensure that the ad would not run, but because some of our staff members could not afford to use their paychecks to make a statement, we have been forced to go along quietly.

The reality of our financial situation is grim, and the fact of the matter is that we would have been forced to cut thousands of dollars from an ever-tightening budget if we had not run this advertisement.

We were forced to make a decision we find distasteful at best – and dishonest and unethical at worst – because of the ever-present and unrelenting reality of the economy and the downturn of the journalism industry.

Much of our staff, the members of this board especially, are invested in the Daily Bruin and the practice of journalism on a personal level, and nothing pains us more than to see the cover and name of our beloved publication sullied for the sake of survival.

Editor Anthony Pesce published an editor’s note on the real front page:

Today’s Daily Bruin was wrapped in an advertisement specifically designed by a clever marketing department to fool you into thinking – if only for a few seconds – that my staff wrote the content that appeared on the front page.

If you’re reading this, you have discovered our real front page, fully educated about the plight of the honey bee, and I’m glad you are taking the time to read our newspaper. I want our readership and our community to know that there will not be another advertisement like it for the rest of the year. We will not be selling these kinds of ads as long as I remain the editor of this newspaper – which is at least for another nine weeks. Many on my staff were vehemently opposed to this ad for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, they were upset and concerned that our front-page news content was displaced, and that it was displaced by an advertisement designed to mislead our readers.

Apparently, financial pressures overruled journalism in this instance. I’m with the students.

Look, it’s one thing to place an ad around your content. It’s one thing to think up new ways to make money on innovative marketing ideas. Heck, I even applauded when the New York Times started running front page ads!

But this is just wrong. Shame on the marketers for concocting this sad little ploy to trade on the tradition of a 90-year-old journalistic enterprise, and shame on whoever it was who forced the issue to trade that journalistic tradition for a few pieces of gold.

In an age when newspapers are fighting for their lives and the credibility of the news industry is not that great, this type of “advertorial” is not a step in the right direction.

I welcome your thoughts.

Update: Please answer the poll question

<a href=”http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/1522973/” >Would you run an ad “wrap” that mimicked your front page “look and feel”?</a> <br /> <span style=”font-size:9px;”> (<a href=”http://www.polldaddy.com”> polls</a>)</span>

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