By Casey Bukro
Three California universities paid the Orange County Register in Southern California $275,000 for a year’s worth of weekly sections featuring campus life.
An NPR report asked: Is that a smart way to raise revenue, or a serious breach of journalism ethics?
Not clear is just how transparent the arrangement is, and whether readers fully understand that the coverage — including soft features, photos of students and guest columns written by faculty members — is bought and paid for, and not strictly news coverage. More like infomercials or advertorials. They are paid content.
The University of California, Irvine, California State University, Fullerton and Chapman University think it’s a good deal and a good use of publicity budgets.
A Register official said it’s “a great service for the community” and features advertisers in an advertising section.
The story quotes Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, saying readers must decide if the practice is acceptable, and whether the newspaper’s credibility is damaged. He goes on to add that as all newspapers struggle to survive, they must be creative about finding new sources of revenue.
The report also points out that sponsored content might be the future of newspapers.
Google has issued warnings on the use of advertorials on websites.