Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Diet Story Suggests Improper Relationship

This seems almost too elementary to bring up: Every reporter learns on day one of journalism school that newspapers don't print a single-source story, copied from a corporate Web site, "written" by a salesperson who wants to expand her business and present it to readers as if it's regional news. You're supposed to draw a big black border around it and insert a 9-point flag that says "ADVERTISEMENT" and bill the writer for a one-time insertion.

When Cindy DeWeese, "area captain" for Take Off Pounds Sensibly showed up at the newsroom's front desk earlier this week to drop off her copy touting "real success" (as opposed to the not-real kind?) the staff failed to tell her to go buy an ad. Maybe they know something we don't.

Running the copy as if it's news prompts readers to wonder what Cindy's real relationship is to the editor or publisher. Why does she (and not Jenny Craig, Curves, Weight Watchers, and Slimfast) get to use DeSoto Sun's Regional News page to promote her business? After all, she's not a big advertiser, so there must be some other connection the editors would rather not disclose to their community of readers -- by which I mean that folks who belong to the same clubs, churches, lodges, Rotary, etc., as the editors seem to have an "in" when it comes to publicizing their causes. That's an improper relationship, in journalism's ethics. Good news, free news for one's buddies? No.

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