Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Adding up the news

It’s usually a good thing when a trio of employees lends one another a helping hand. But in the newspaper business, when these three people happened to be the marketing director, circulation director and managing editor, there’s a mighty slippery slope created that often ends with egregious breaches of journalism ethics.

And if there’s a paper around that takes pride in taunting the fine line between reporting news and shameless self-promotion, it’s The Saratogian.

As mentioned previously, the Spa City’s local rag has proliferated the overly complicated “Tags to Riches” campaign in an effort to give their flailing circulation a shot in the arm. In an overly generalized nutshell here’s the contest: buy the paper, submit your license plate number on the entry form and then check in the next day’s paper to see if its picked as a cash prize winner.

Were that the extent of the contest, then The Saratogian’s worst crime would be falling prey to an overly gimmicky get-circulation-quick scheme so to speak. Heck, even publishing the names of the winners with a nice caption photo wouldn’t be much worse than a waste of valuable advertising space.

Writing two full-length 200-word by-lined articles about the winners to be injected into the flow of hard news, however, is a clear and dangerous breach of ethics that would be castigated by any professional in the business. This sort of small-time pandering to the circulation and marketing departments can foment much greater ethics problems down the road.

This is not to say that Tuesday’s “Tags to Riches” cash grand prizewinner –described by the paper as an overly excitable senior from Wilton –has some sort of sordid deal to get herself media attention. Rather, it shows that Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo has no qualms giving prevalent newsprint to someone who has quite literally been paid off to the tune of $3,500 by the newspaper itself.

Sadly, this is nothing new for Lombardo and her cronies on Lake Avenue. Just look at the clear and present pandering in the business section, which is almost completely devoid of any actual news content and might as well be a pullout glossy advertisement for area shops.

It’s quite interesting how businesses that advertise in The Saratogian also happen to get prominent play in the so-called business section. And it should also be noted that those businesses that don’t advertise with the newspaper get sparsely a mention, unless of course, they’re burning down.

For The Saratogian, this is business as usual, especially with little more than several yards of floor space standing between the newsroom and advertising department. Thank goodness the circulation department is now on the same page.


Anonymous Duckman said...

Dude, this is good stuff. You're very "mild-mannered".

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A) You're giving too much credit when you posit these conspiracy theories.

B) It's Lake _Avenue_

10:32 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

A)I only wish, but regardless it's food for thought.

B)I stand corrected.

11:05 PM  

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