Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why Can't The ProMedia Call Codswallop What It Really Is?



Last night I was listening to Philip Coulter's excellent long form piece on the evolution of digital knowledge/rise of Wikipedia on Ideas, and for a brief moment the issue of journalistic 'balance' came up.

And one of the talking heads (sorry, missed who it was) talked about how, in journalism, this balance thing, wherein you have to get a spokesperson/expert from both sides of an issue to offer up an equally-weighted opinion, works exactly the opposite of how things (should) work in science where the writer of an article weighs the overall evidence at play (including the new evidence in said article) and then offers an informed opinion about what's what.

Of course, the issue with the fair and balanced journalism thingy is that, when it is corrupted (often with malice aforethought in the modern media age) it can lead to an elevation of the codswallop which, ultimately, can result in crackpottery being indistinguishable from fine china in the public's collective sound bite-addled mind.

Another interesting thing that the talking head offered up was the fact that if proMedia articles were subjected to peer review, wherein experts in a field examined the evidence and opinions offered in a piece, most of them would be rejected.


This really is something that drives me crazy about the way the proMedia works, which is why I am watching, with great interest, how the BBC does with it's new policy not to include the purveyors of demonstrable codswallop regarding matters of climate change specifically and other scientific findings more generally.



The matter discussed above is a big problem - but at least the codswallop is out there for all to see.

And one could argue, I suppose, that an informed should separate the wheat from from codswallop on their own.

But what if the codswallop is hidden and passed off as legitimate 'journalism' when it is actually a paid advertorial?

Well, that's not happening, right?

Because while all the big media conglomerates are beefing up their advertorial programs to boost revenues they are at least telling us what is what, right?

Because those are the rules, right?


Maybe not.

David Climenhaga, in a good sum-up blog post of something that has been going down at PostMedia explains. Here is his lede and a bit more (but I strongly suggest you read the entire thing):

Industry self-regulation doesn’t work and never will for a simple reason: He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Companies that tell fibs to their customers don’t like being regulated by their own tame “watchdogs” any more than they like being told what to do by the government. The difference is, in the case of in-house regulation, they’re big enough to kick the dog.

So DeSmog Canada needn’t have held out much hope that Advertising Standards Canada would do or say anything about its complaint that Postmedia has been passing off paid advertising from the petroleum industry as unlabelled editorial content...


The story in question, which ran on both papers’ websites last December, told about an executive for Enbridge Inc., the company that wants to build the Northern Gateway pipeline. The cheerful yarn made a claim that the loss to Canada of not having sufficient access to export markets for its oil is $50 million a day.

Some environmentalists and economists took issue with this statement.

B.C.-based economist Robyn Allen submitted an opinion piece to the Sun arguing the $50-million claim was untrue. What happened next, said DeSmog, was that “she was informed it couldn’t be run because the article she was responding to was actually a paid advertisement.”

DeSmog’s complaint cited one of the points in the group’s “Canadian Code of Advertising Standards” called “disguised advertising techniques,” which declares “no advertisement shall be presented in a format or style that conceals its commercial intent.”

After a couple of months, said DeSmog, they got a letter from the watchdog that the case was closed, and Advertising Standards Canada would not be issuing a ruling against Postmedia.

The article was later quietly pulled from the Sun’s website...

This stuff really is scary.

Because when we can't tell what's ad copy and what is serious journalism we will soon be in even bigger trouble (i.e. buried in proverbial mountains of codswallop) than we are now.

And in reading all of Mr. Climenhaga's excellent piece I noted, with interest, how low PM's online ad sales were in the last quarter ($23 million) compared to print ads ($95 million)...Given that, why the heckfire have they given up on print...I mean, if you cut your pages and staff devoted to that stuff, of course revenues are going to decline precipitously...


1 comment:

RossK said...

Thanks Anon--

A good piece by young Dr. Holman, indeed.

(please note: By the blog powers invested in me, I've arbitrarily upgraded SMH's academic credentials)