Dec 09

And the walls come crumbling down

Birds do it. Bees do it. Trade publications most certainly do it. In this case, 'it' is blurring the lines between editorial and advertising.

December 9 - the_dallas_morning_news_logo_2 Recently, the Dallas Morning News announced that some editors have started reporting directly to executives outside the newsroom who control advertising sales. Ouch. So much for the separation of church and state.

The initial reassignments are limited to sports and entertainment. But, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. And, the implications are grave to the Fourth Estate.

Bob Mong, the editor of the Morning News, said reporters had been urged to '….fight back if they were told to do anything unethical.' Good luck with that one. The paper's management has clearly opened a veritable Pandora's Box that will never again close.

In today's brutal economy, it's all about the almighty dollar. With traditional journalism imploding on all fronts, it was only a matter of time before a major news organization put advertising/sales in charge of editorial. And, once that happens, any semblance of true, unbiased objectivity disappears.

Trade magazines have routinely blurred the lines between advertising and editorial. I can remember countless calls from a certain monthly publication's editor who told me Peppercom would be featured in an upcoming issue and a full-page ad would only further enhance its impact. I laughed, and said, 'Thanks, but no thanks.'

These are sad and worrying times for society in general, and journalism in particular. I'm frankly surprised the Dallas Morning News went virtually unreported in the PR trades. It's a seminal event that, if it becomes a trend, will have a cataclysmic impact on how we, as communicators, function.