Goodbye, Columbus TV health news credibility

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Nothing new here at all – just the latest episode of a local community discovering that its glorified local health news is often just paid-for advertising.

The Other Paper of Columbus, Ohio unveils how Ohio State University Medical Center pays one station almost $100,000 a year to air “Breakthroughs in Medicine” segments in the newscast, and pays another station almost $150,000 for a “MedBreaks” segment.

The VP and general manager of one of these stations rejected criticism saying, “They’re not ads, they’re vignettes. …The reality is, a television station that maintains editorial control I don’t believe is doing anything ethically wrong.â€?

OK, then why doesn’t the station tell viewers what they’re getting by scrolling across the screen:


The Radio-Television News Directors Association’s (RTNDA) Code of Ethics states:

Professional electronic journalists should:

* Gather and report news without fear or favor, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, sources, story subjects, powerful individuals, and special interest groups.
* Resist those who would seek to buy or politically influence news content or who would seek to intimidate those who gather and disseminate the news.
* Determine news content solely through editorial judgment and not as the result of outside influence.
* Resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty and service to the public.
* Recognize that sponsorship of the news will not be used in any way to determine, restrict, or manipulate content.
* Refuse to allow the interests of ownership or management to influence news judgment and content inappropriately.

As we said at the top, this is nothing new. Columbus residents join the long list of television audiences all over the country who have been spoonfed one-sided PR and advertising messages from medical centers paying their way into newscasts. The fact that a supposed “news” organization would accept these deals is an embarrassment to the TV news industry.

When will RTNDA do something about it?

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