Blurring the Boundaries Between News and Advertising    

            Back in the bad old days of journalism, when most reporters had only high school diplomas and a bottle of whiskey might be as likely as anything else to be filed in a journalist’s desk, there were BOMs.

            A BOM is a “Business Office Must.”

            The newspaper business office would send a reporter a note requiring a favorable story be prepared about an advertiser, present or potential. The story would be run as if it were honest news and the public might be fooled.

            This was before a mild-mannered reporter became Superman, idealistic college grads flocked into journalism and a newspaper helped trip a powerful president at the very first “gate”--Watergate. Abuses like BOMs became rare in metro newspapers. Occasions of shame. A "wall" was erected between the newsroom and the business side as journalism professionalized.

            Fast forward to the mid-1980’s. Big corporations that knew little about journalism began to buy up networks. Newsrooms became the preeminent profit-centers of television stations. And newspapers discovered the allure of Wall Street. MBA’s began to displace wizened veteran editors wearing green eyeshades. The walls separating the news and advertising departments came down across America.

            Now in many American newsrooms what becomes news is considered not just from the perspective of what people need to know, but from the point of view of maximizing shareholder value. Business and journalism have teamed up. Team players don’t need BOMs.

            Welcome to the culture of promotion:

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