WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Selling Naming Rights for Reporters

Jan 20, 2015

Long-time Chicago media critic Robert Feder reported: “Phil Ponce isn’t just the host of WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight” anymore. From now on, he’s The Alexandra and John Nichols Chief Correspondent and Host for the public television station’s nightly news program.

“Marking a first in Channel 11’s 60-year history, Window to the World Communications has named an on-air host’s position in honor of a couple of major financial backers.”

Shop Talk panelist Jonathan Ahl feels this sets a dangerous precedent and said it could create a perception of bias.  However, Ahl added it might be a bit less egregious when the naming rights go to someone who’s upheld the spirit of journalism.

Rich Egger said this reminded him of the uproar a few years ago when newspapers started putting ads on the front page.  Journalists were initially upset but now it’s fairly commonplace.

Rich Moreno said The Western Courier is now discussing whether to sell a banner across the bottom of the front page. Moreno said front page ads are quite lucrative.  He also said it’s nothing new -- front pages of newspapers were filled with ads in the 19th Century.

Regarding the selling of naming rights to a journalist’s position, Moreno agreed with Ahl in saying it could create a bad precedent.  And Ahl said some non-profit journalism organizations might be tempted to head down this slippery slope if audiences don’t provide enough financial support.