All over the country, daily journalists working on newspapers or on radio or TV are now also being asked to publish blogs – often without any additional pay for the additional work.
But I recently discovered a case where a reporter pressured to do a blog had that blog censored by a TV news director because he didn’t like what was in the blog.
The reporter – a TV health reporter – posted two entries about some questionable (I would call them unethical) practices in TV news. One referred to the practice of medical centers buying air time within newscasts and having the message appear as news. The posting asked blog visitors:
“What do you think of commercials for local health care behemoths that look like news? … Are you able to tell they are clearly commercials?”
The other blog entry was about subscription services that provide health news for stations to fill their newscasts. The reporter, whose station often uses such a service, wrote on the blog:
“I’ve noticed a lot of the subscription reports have to do with research. And not that I have anything against research — in fact, I think it’s a very important part of medical advancement — but I believe the mass media need to be very careful about highlighting investigational procedures, products, and techniques. …I worry sometimes these packages peddle false hope, or at least, premature hope.
What do you think of these subscription pieces? Can you tell when it’s something I’ve written versus a (subscription) piece? Do you think stations should even subscribe to (such) services?”
Without being told in advance, the reporter noticed that the blog entries had been deleted. The news director then called the reporter on the carpet and said that “He didn’t think it was right to ask viewers what they thought about something management had already decided to do.”
The reporter no longer blogs on the station website. That reporter asks if other reporters have had similar experiences, stating “it’s about reporters everywhere having viewpoints about what their own industry does, and not being able to express their views without fear of reprisal.”
Please weigh in if you know of other such in-house censorship of the free flow of ideas. In an era of transparency, there are apparently some editorial decisions that some news managers – at least this one – don’t want to shine a light on. That may be the best evidence there is for why the practices in question should be re-assessed.