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A matter of trust? Or business as usual?

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“Trust us,” say journalists — and their management. “We’re unbiased, we seek truth and we’re working for you.” It doesn’t matter if the journalists are print, radio, TV or the Web.

“Trust us. We know what’s good for you.”

So just what is the trusting listener supposed to think about the news produced by WIBA-AM in Madison, Wisc., when the Clear Channel radio station begins pushing news onto the airwaves from the Amcore Bank News Center in January?

According to the Washington Post, “[t]he station has sold naming rights to its newsroom to Amcore, a regional institution operating in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and Iowa.” This isn’t a first for Clear Channel. Says the Post: “About two years ago, WISN-AM in Milwaukee introduced listeners to its newscast from the PyraMax Bank News Center.”

Clear Channel and bank officials promise no editorial hanky-panky. Says Jerry Bott, director of AM operations for Clear Channel Radio Milwaukee.

“There are certain lines that have to be maintained. [PyraMax] has never asked for any control, and if they came to me and asked, they would be denied.”

And from Amcore spokeswoman Katherine Taylor:

“We don’t expect or anticipate any preferential or different treatment in news coverage. We don’t feel it’s in our best interest.”

So listeners should just trust them?

Then there’s the Durham, N.C., TV station that is “planning to promote its news team’s ability to cover live news by faking it.”

WTVD, ABC-11, has been making station promos using on-duty, taxpayer-paid firefighters as extras. In an attempt to create realism in promoting the ability of the station’s Eyewitness News team, it has used artificial smoke, contrived backgrounds, fire trucks, a hazardous materials truck and firefighters who perform “on cue,” says the Raleigh News-Observer.

Even the weather’s fair game for fakery: “[t]he Fire Department sent a truck to the WTVD studio where a crew was staging a bad weather event,” says the paper.

And viewers should just trust the Eyewitness Team’s real news packages when they air?

Sheesh. The increasing mixing of business and journalism, the continual fracturing of the “church vs. state” wall between the news side and ad side, leaves little to trust any more.

As the digital age roars into every aspect of life, and people are increasingly unable to distinguish between what is real and what is not in what they see and hear, it should be journalism’s job to separate fact from fantasy.

But its managers won’t let it, because there’s money to be made. Trust me …


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 16, 2005 at 11:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. And the worst of it is…
    … the managers will, for the most part, not understand why people would have a problem with these arrangements. At that point, I can only hope they don’t manage to kill newspapers and radio entirely before we can send out some people with a stronger sense of ethics.
    Oh yeah, the other worst part of it is the stock market is likely to reward them for this.


    December 17, 2005 at 5:05 pm

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