The (Quickly Disappearing) Line Between Real News + Advertising

It’s no secret that mass advertising has been infiltrating every scope of the media. Not only is it a huge part of the journalism industry’s changing face (why else would there be chapter after painstakingly long chapter devoted to the asphyxiating grip of major advertising comps? And we were required to buy a $22, ten page packet on the cause and effects of advertising monopolies… *cough, cough*) but the increasing difficulties that come with deciphering what is hard news and what is promotion is going to be a huge challenge for whatever the media restructures itself to be.

Now, I was raised to “never believe what you see on t.v.”—a household mantra my mom instilled early on. The LA Times posted this article about a back-to-school feature the local Detroit Fox station aired about toys. Turns out the so-called “toy expert,” Elizabeth Werner, was actually hired to promote toys from companies who paid over $11,000 to be apart of her back-to-school tour.

(I couldn’t find a clip of the back-to-school segment, but this is from Werner’s holiday toy guide in Nov. 2009, also on the Fox Detroit channel. So you kind of get an idea of what it’s like.)

This is yet again just another chapter to the blurring between news and force-fed garbage that our unconscious absorbs. For one thing, I find that I don’t really actively pay attention to the news when it’s broadcasted. Having a newspaper or even reading online at least forces me to think a little. One of the articles in that $22 packet talked about the power of branding; that after seeing advertisements for a popular brand, like Clorox, consumers go to the store with the familiarity already embedded in their brains. This is how prices are kept artificially high, and we fall for it.

Why? Because that 30-sec commercial is short enough for us to forget about questioning it, but long enough for us to remember that catchphrase or logo. Familiarity + comfort = weapon against the unknown (or in this case, the dreaded store brand *shudder*).

Anyway, I digress. A growing concern about the credibility of the media applies itself to the internet as well. I think it’s generally accepted that print newspapers are more trustworthy—again, not only because they’ve been around forever, but because there is a sense that print journalists get out there and do hard “reporting.” These days, anyone with a blog is considered an author, nevermind the fact that it’s harder to distinguish the credibility of sources.


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