Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Critical Thinking: J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Critical Thinking: J-School Students and Industry Vets Tackle the Tough Questions

Article excerpt

Q: As the popularity of native advertising grows online, some publishers and agencies say native ads should look more like editorial, not less. Do you think this is a smart way to engage readers with online ads or does it conflict with journalism ethics?

A: They are everywhere you click. Native ads. The increasingly prevalent form of advertisement designed to look like editorial content, verges on crossing the boundaries of journalistic ethics. In order for native advertisement to engage readers, it is disguised to look like editorial content. This practice breaches the public trust. Journalists are meant to be the watchdogs of society. Their job is to inform the public, not endorse consumer products. It is the job of the news media to report on industry, news, among other things. It is a clear violation of the code of ethics to brand for financial gain.

When advertisements begin to look like editorials, the public will perceive them as such, as a product the news organization supports. Readers respect editorials, especially from well-known news organizations like The New York Times. The audience who values the opinion of these trusted news organizations takes editorials to heart. Native ads made to look like editorials abuse that trust. The news media honor First Amendment freedoms and rights when they search for the truth. Along with these rights, come responsibilities to openly disclose sponsored advertisements in their publication.

Interacting on the web is part of everyday life, and native ads are part of the experience. They allow the consumer culture in America to creep into another aspect of daily life. Consumerism is taking over and it is important news organizations protect themselves from this. The public needs to be able to differentiate between an ad and the news, and this is the news organization job. Journalists need to search for the truth, not promote consumerism. Native ads are not going away, but to become more like editorials, this is a violation of the code of ethics.

Emily White, 21

senior, Roger Williams

University (Bristol, R.I.)

White is majoring in journalism and legal studies with a minor in graphic design. She plans to apply to law schools this fall. White is currently employed at the online business management firm, Persona-Mill, as video editor, social media coordinator and copywriter. She is also the vice-president for the Roger Williams University's chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. …

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