Stupid Media Stunts, Part Four: Mistaking articles for advertising.

The Omaha World-Herald just cut 43 jobs. How does a paper cope?

By writing a column that pretends to be an article, but is, in fact, a clumsy attempt to get people to buy a subscription.

It reminds me of the Brit Com Keeping Up Appearances, where the Buckets’ son Sheridan would call home, and give a story to his mother Hyacinth, only to have his father Richard shout, “How much?”

The article begins with one of those me-centred themes of why the reporter “fell in love” with journalism at 16. It goes on to brag of the places he has been.

And then the sales pitch:

You may have heard we recently had layoffs here, a traumatic day for all involved and especially for those talented people and even better human beings ushered out the door.

But that isn’t why I want you to subscribe.

I want you to subscribe because you get full access to all my columns, all Sarah’s restaurant reviews, all of the quality news, sports, business and feature content we produce every day.

 

The sales pitch goes on longer than that, but it is as insincere as it gets: look at me! Look at the places I’ve been and you haven’t! We need money. Click on the click to pay for it, okay?

My favourite part is this:

Listen: The World-Herald is flawed. It is human. It will at times let you down and make you mad.

But at our best, we figure things out. We write about it in a way that can entertain or infuriate or inspire. And now we look to you and ask … Is it worth it? If it is, sign up right here.

Journalism did let people down, but it is not because they “aren’t perfect.” They let people down because they do not listen or know their place. They are not supposed to entertain or inspire: they are supposed to inform.

And not misuse columns to get people to subscribe to their newspaper.

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