The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media


I wasn’t quite sure how to react when Clyde passed this link to me and the rest of the Cyberbrains. My wife was sittingWebcam mug Hans next to me in our downstairs office / sewing room (She sews, not me!) and I didn’t want to break into histrionics. Besides, she’s an intelligent news consumer as well, with a perspective that’s different, and probably more grounded in reality than mine.

But as I explained to her why it’s bordering on blasphemous for anything resembling a newscast to try to sneak an ad past its consumers, I actually made sense, so much sense, in fact, she encouraged me to share it. Her exact comment was something along the lines of, “Don’t you have a blog for this?”

So here’s the rub, and I’ll try to get to it without resorting to the tired arguments that news should be a public service, news shouldn’t focus only on money, big business shouldn’t control the news because frankly, we know none of those are true. News has always been, and should be to some extent, about making money, maybe not obscene 30 percent margins, but at least some. It makes the news gatherers responsive to their audience, which I think citizen journalism has taught us is needed now more than ever.

We also know that as nefarious as McDonald’s is, they aren’t placing fake cups of iced coffee on the morning news desk in a plot to take over the world or even control the news. How many McDonald’s related stories will the Las Vegas station cover anyway?

I also won’t talk about how news needs to fix its broken trust with its audiences, as Roy Peter Clark discussed today in Poynter’s Centerpiece, because while I do agree, I’m not sure that this move really adds to the woes the media have already inflicted by allowing front page ads or signing revenue sharing agreements with sports stadiums. The real problem with these ads, as Clark states, is they lack transparency, a vital cog to reconnecting with audieces. Audiences deserve to know who journalists spoke to, who they didn’t, and how they gathered their stories. In the same vein, they deserve to be told explicitly they are watching an ad, and this is where I think Clark misses the point.

I would not have a problem if the newscast began with, “This insipid babble brought to you by McDonald’s, your stop for scalding hot coffee.” I’d even have less of a problem with this if the anchors were told they had to drink from the cup three times each hour, while also uttering, “MickeyD’s now serves iced frappalattachinos.” What I dislike and what I think goes against a core journalistic value is that it looks like the news station is trying to pull a fast one. It’s like they are the Wizard of Oz saying, “Pay no attention to the beverage on the desk, except of course when you are driving down the road past some Golden Arches and you’re thirsty.” 

I like my news like my McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with Cheese. I choose both because I know what I’m going to get. Let’s keep it that way.


July 24, 2008 - Posted by | From The Cyberbrains

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