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Have you ever been "influenced"?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by fishwrapper, Aug 9, 2007.

  1. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Myself, my paper and our industry struggle finding new ways to generate revenue. And, I have seen us make, perhaps, decisions we probably wouldn't have made in the past. Let me give an example. People, places and events have been changed to protect those involved.


    The Universal Fighting Contest is coming to town. The slick-talking Owner and President asks for a meeting. He's charismatic. In a well-rehearsed articulation, he can site line and verse why his sport is growing and this would be a wonderful opportunity for our section to attract a sought-after demographic. He's looking for more coverage. Plain and simple. More than the six-inch gamers he's received in the past. He's compelling. Quite compelling. Like any other meeting, I/we thank him for his time and tell him we will discuss it with our staff and editors. A few days goes by. Word comes from advertising that the Universal Fighting Contest has bought half-page, color ads for the next 26 weeks.


    Now, here is the issue. When does that six-inch gamer become a 10-inch advance and 10-inch cover? When does that six-inch gamer become a 15-inch profile and 10-inch gamer? One can rationalize the increase in coverage a million ways. You swallow hard and make a decision.
    Have you made those decisions? Or, if you are a reporter, have you seen an increase in coverage of an event and was left wondering the genesis?
    I'm hoping we not focus on the Universal Fighting Contest. It could be a tennis tournament. Golf tournament. Motor racing. Soccer. Rodeo.
    It's a partnership, and the "fine line" is drawn in invisible pen.
    Any experiences?
  2. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I assume they bought the ads with no strings attached. If they didn't, then it isn't your call anyway. The case I would want to make in-house is that if we start basing coverage on anything other than reader interest, there won't be any readers. We offer advertisers paid access to our audience, but if the audience doesn't come first, we'll soon have nothing to sell to advertisers.
  3. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    I couldn't agree more.
    What it comes down to: They're salesmen. Sometimes we buy, many times we don't.
  4. I agree with what has already been said and I want to add: It is our job to decide what gets covered. I'll listen to what anyone says, but my coverage cannot be bought at any price (though I might switch over to P.R. for the right price).
    They can buy as many ads as they want and I'll be plenty happy about that, but you can't start letting what people are willing to pay influence what write. Otherwise you become just an ad writer.
  5. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    What's your reasons not to write about a sporting event coming to town?
  6. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    Never said we didn't or wouldn't write about an event coming to town.
  7. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    Your post implies you wouldn't write about it since that guy pitched it.
  8. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    First off, the post is an appending of experiences. So, let's not dissect it too much.
    Secondly, I'm not sure where you derived the implication, but the post says the event has been covered in the past...

    I'm curious if anyone has ever had someone try to direct or influence their coverage.
    Whether it be outside or inside.
  9. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    It happens all the time in business coverage, that's why some PR people are better than others.
    Sports is a little trickier, especially if it is a gamer-driven section.
    And I think we self-edit all the time. No newsroom exists in a vacumn, so you may not think that you do, but chances are you go different directions because someone nudged you that way.
  10. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    In my first shop, a small weekly, the general manager/ad rep would constanly come up to me requesting a story about some charity golf tournament that bought a major ad. Those that didn't by a major ad, we'd run the winners/money raised in a notebook. At the time, I didn't know any better, so I wasted my time covering something that no one wanted to read about except those that were there. It happened with little 5K/Fun Runs and stuff like that, also. I would get some influence from the outside, but it mostly came from the inside where, I'm sure the ad rep was not only selling an ad, but a guaranteed slot in the sports section, too.

    Luckily, where I am now, the sports department is somewhat autonomous. We get to gauge what the reader interest is and act accordingly.
  11. HejiraHenry

    HejiraHenry Well-Known Member

    What about the "ad adjacency"?

    We had these at USA Today. Most memorable example was America's Cup -- content about the AC next to ads from the sponsor.

    I'm assuming USAT didn't invent the practice.
  12. Meat Loaf

    Meat Loaf Guest


    The owner of the local car dealership sponsors a best-ball every year. He's also one of our largest clients for the ad side.

    Two years ago, I'm working by myself the night before the best ball begins. The course pro was supposed to fax me results of the putting championship and the longest drive, blah blah blah. Around 10 p.m., the owner calls me from a bar, drunk off his ass. Screaming at me, calling me a motherfucker, bastard, son of a bitch, etc. because we didn't have a camera crew to cover the putting championship. First, he was confusing us with the TV station. Regardless, he continued to tear into me because he thinks he's the big shit of the town because he has a lot of money. Telling me that he's going to call my "motherfucker of a publisher" and pull all of his ads.

    I'm not that worried, because he threatens this all of the time. We're the only daily paper for 150 miles in any direction. He doesn't have a choice really.

    I eventually get the dickhead off the phone. Called the ME to tell him what happened. Shit, I figured I'd be out of job soon the way these things go. Found out the next day he was pissed off because his kid won the putting championship. We've never covered it, but that year we apparently should have. Silly me.

    But, I handled it well enough. The ME and publisher were used to this, so I wasn't in any trouble. The ad director came over to apologize for me.

    "You don't have to apologize for anything. He's just another car dealer in the same bumfuck town I happen to live in. He's nothing."

    We still don't cover that fucking putting championship.
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