New Words for Old Ideas

By Casey Bukro

Every so often, some new terminology creeps into journalism lingo. Sometimes it’s a new concept, and sometimes it’s an old concept cloaked in different words.

That could apply to the term “sponsored views.”

In an interview with iMediaEthics, Patrick Pexton, former Washington Post ombudsman, said “sponsored views” are new words for “advertorials, messages provided by advertisers in a way that looks like journalism, or slightly cloaked journalism.”

But, he added emphatically, “it ain’t journalism.” Instead, it’s brand journalism.

This became an issue, as iMediaEthics reported, when the Washington Post launched a Sponsored Media program on June 12, allowing special interest groups to buy advertisements that are presented as comments below op-ed pieces on the Washington Post website.

The move came three months after the Post abandoned its ombudsman position and replaced it with a reader represenatative. Pexton was the newspaper’s last ombudsman, serving from 2011 to 2012.

The move was motivated by finance, said Pexton. ” The Post needs more revenue,” he said.

Since then, Jeffrey Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, bought the Post for $250 million.

One writer wonders if brand journalism and ethics can co-exist?

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About cbukro

Casey Bukro was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2008 for outstanding contributions to Chicago journalism, after a 45 year career with the Chicago Tribune. Bukro retired from the Tribune in 2007 as overnight editor. He had pioneered in environmental reporting and in 1970 became the first full-time environment specialist at a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States and covered major developments on that beat for 30 years. He won the newspaper’s highest editorial award in 1967 for a series on Great Lakes pollution. The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Bukro its highest honor, the Wells Key, in 1983 for writing that organization’s first code of ethics. He is a past president of SPJ’s national ethics committee and a past president of the Chicago Headline Club. Bukro graduated with bachelor and master degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 1998, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Association’s alumni service award for 17 years of volunteer service to the university. He has lectured in environmental journalism and journalism ethics at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Columbia College, Columbia University and others. Before joining the Tribune staff, Bukro worked at the former City News Bureau of Chicago and the Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wis.

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