19 April, 2005

Today in the news

I'm afraid there is nothing funny about this post. The Wall St Journal today (don't bother to click this link, since they only want you for $65 a year as a paid subscriber and because they do what they can to evade anyone linking to their stories from elsewhere on the net (dinosaurs much?)) reports that the U.S. government isn't alone in covertly paying pitchmen in the major media. (Nor am I alone in adding unnecessary assonance (and parentheticals).)
Advice for Sale
How Companies Pay TV Experts For On-Air Product Mentions
Plugs Come Amid News Shows And Appear Impartial; Pacts Are Rarely Disclosed Energizer Gets on 'Today'

In November, Child magazine's Technology Editor James Oppenheim appeared on a local television show in Austin, Texas, and reviewed educational gadgets and toys... the audience didn't know: Kodak paid Mr. Oppenheim to mention the photo album, according to the company and Mr. Oppenheim. Neither Mr. Oppenheim nor KVUE disclosed the relationship to viewers... praised products... Atari Inc., Microsoft Corp., Mattel Inc., Leapfrog Enterprises Inc. and RadioShack Corp. All paid for the privilege... In the "Today" segment, Mr. Oppenheim talked about products made or sold by 15 companies . Nine were former clients and eight of those had paid him for product placement on local TV during the preceding year... Mr. Oppenheim is part of a little-known network...
Am I the only one who's noticed that every bizarre little profile in the Wall St Journal is a glimpse into a "little-known network"? Anyway...
Mr. Oppenheim is part of a little-known network that connects product experts with advertisers and TV shows. The experts pitch themselves to companies willing to pay for a mention . Next, they approach local-TV stations and offer themselves up to be interviewed... segments... typically air during regular news programming... indistinguishable from the rest of the show. One reviewer may conduct dozens of interviews with local stations over the course of a day in what the industry calls a "satellite media tour."

The familiar faces on this circuit include Mr. Oppenheim, "Today" Tech Editor Corey Greenberg and trend spotter Katlean de Monchy.
Meanwhile, the LA Times has the integrity to offer a head on a tray for what seem to be considerably less egregious crimes against the truth: marginally fictionalized reporting about hazing at Chico State, in California. The reporter said the hazing victim drank from a water bladder but it was really a plastic jug. Whatever. He invented quotes. Very bad. And thus, today's editor's note:
... published a correction of four errors in a March 29 article... editors began a full review... the paper has concluded that the article fell far short of Times standards...methods... were substandard...anonymous sources and ... named sources... could not be verified...Additional inaccuracies found during the investigation...The writer of both articles, Eric Slater, has been dismissed from the staff.
Now if the TV networks could have those kind of ethics.

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