by M. Stewart
One of the primary concerns of a legitimate news organization is maintaining credibility, but for-profit news vendors also must make money. What makes the news business somewhat unique is that these two requirements often are at odds.
When the agendas of advertising departments and newsrooms collide, legitimate news organizations always come down on the side of news values rather than risk their hard-to-earn but easy-to-lose credibility. These days, it's easy to spot the frauds--that is, those news organizations that will sell their credibility to any
bidder, not just the highest.
But is there anyone left who cares?
Case in point:
Below is a screen capture of an unidentified Ohio newspaper web site. The story is a standard one designed to warn the public about a scam that involves people posing as local health inspectors. Newspapers love it when a story like this drops into their laps because it gives them a chance to look like they are guarding the public interest.
Now take a look at the "advertisements" that surround the news story. All these ads are generated by scam artists operating from points unknown. They are localized by software that immediately discerns your location based upon your IP address. The local newspaper has no idea who these "advertisers" are, nor does it care. What it does
know is that if its readers click those ads, a little bit of money comes its way. If the reader is stupid enough to fall for one of the advertised scams, too bad. It's not the news organization's fault. At least that's what the newspaper people would say.
What is the difference between the health inspector scam described in the news story and "19yr old stock market wizard makes his first million using this #1 penny stock site," or "Ohio: Mom discovers $9 insurance trick," or "East Liverpool: Mom makes Botox Doctors Furious"?
Answer: no difference whatsoever. And this is hardly an isolated example.
Did you also notice that the news story is written by "submitted story"? Most likely it is an unverified news release submitted by the Sandusky County Health Department or the unidentified "law enforcement officials" mentioned in the story. The news organization doesn't think it's important to tell us who submitted the story. Chances are it was printed just as it was received. And do you suppose anyone at the newspaper even noticed the irony of printing a story warning the public about a scam while promoting several others on the same page?
I'm wondering if anyone involved in this "news organization" has ever heard of journalism. One thing is certain: No journalist was involved in producing this story. And by the way, feel free to accept the invitations of the scam artists that advertise on the site. The shareholders need the money.
Welcome to the world of robot news.