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Join TSPR for a weekly conversation about media issues. News Director Rich Egger and expert panelists discuss what’s in the news about the news business.

Making Ads Look Like News Stories

FAIR, or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, recently noted, "CNN has announced the formation of a new unit that will not report the news. Instead, it will take money from corporations to produce content that resembles news but is actually PR designed to burnish its clients' images."

Shop Talk panelist Rich Moreno said this reminds him of “advertorials,” which have been a standard in the newspaper and magazine industries for years. But he feels this is different because certain design elements can be used to distinguish advertorials from real news.  But someone could tune in to a televised piece after it’s already started and not know it’s an ad.

Moreno said CNN’s plan is clearly designed to trick viewers, despite the network’s claims to the contrary.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton said she once worked for a station that ran something similar.  The program aired right after the news but she said it was clearly differentiated from the news and the program had its own producer and staff, separate from the news department.

Crighton said the same station also allowed product placement during newscasts -- McDonald’s cups were placed on the desk during newscasts.  She said the station was criticized by other news organizations for what was considered a lapse in ethics.

Panelist Rich Egger said ads seems to be omnipresent.  He said ads and logos appear on playing fields in sports, even on uniforms.  There were initially complaints but eventually people got accustomed to them and no one gives it a second thought anymore.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.