For everyone who cried "foul" when the Washington Post was sold to Jeff Bezos, worrying that selling a newspaper to the creator of Amazon.com would mean the end of news as we know it, I have two words to say: "Too Late."
Today's screed is brought to you courtesy of the local CBS station who, this morning in the "news" ran a two-minute-long commercial for a sporting goods store. They, of course, didn't call it a commercial; not, the treated it as if it was somehow newsworthy. But I was left wondering why the story was "news."
Being familiar with the industry: having a degree in Broadcast Production and thirty-years of experience in broadcasting, I can only say that if they weren't being paid for all the time, then they are idiots! Even the weather forecast mentioned the name of this sporting goods store and indicating that the people that had been interviewed in the previous "news" item were at the right place because of "all that great camping gear at great prices" that the sporting goods store had.
I have mentioned product placement (thinly veiled commercials in programming content) before and said that I really dislike it… It takes time away from the coverage of actual news and it marks a departure of when broadcasters used to have to actually cover the news in their communities in order to keep their licenses. But this story made no pretense at news whatsoever! At 05:30 this morning they interviewed two idiots who had sat outside the store all night and were waiting to be the first people into the store.
To be clear, I only call these guys idiots because with the effusion of gushed admiration they spewed for this store, if they weren't being paid they should have demanded spokesperson fees (and unless the rules have changed and I missed it – that is still illegal – you have to at least pretend that your news is news and not commercials). The whole story was about how great the store was, how much exciting merchandise they have, and what a great place to shop it is.
It could have been so easy to pretend that the story was newsworthy. All it would have taken to give this commercial a veneer of newsworthiness would have been to waste half-a-minute of the commercial – uh, news – time to mention something newsworthy, say that the opening of the store created jobs; at least one assumes that the opening of the store. But the entire 05:30 story was about how great it was to have a new store and what great gear they carried. C'mon, Channel 4! WHY IS THIS NEWS!?
Wherever you are today I hope all your news is good news.