Yes, Virginia, there is advertiser influence in news media

Most newsgathering operations have codes of ethics which prohibit advertiser influence. But historically, this has proven, at best, oversimplistic. For example, I would suggest FAIR’s story on a PBS decision, in 1997, not to air a program highlighting discrimination against gays, because it appeared to favor the unions who sponsored the series.

Then, consider a letter from David Bloom, VP of corporate communications for MGM, published in Good Morning Silicon Valley, which reads, in part:

Some of those people/companies are advertisers in the San Jose Mercury News. They need to make a profit, so they can buy ads in the Mercury News, so that you can be paid to write your always funny but distressingly misguided column.

That John Paczkowski was able to publish this letter shows either that the media can resist, or that every once in a while, advertisers toss something along so that the media can appear to resist. If advertiser influence was non-existent, or counterproductive, Bloom surely would have not bothered to toss in this line, but could have made his point in a less bullying fashion. (Paczkowsi called this letter, “the nicest letter calling [him] an idiot that [he’d] ever received.”) But Bloom evidently believed the line would be effective, and wasn’t shy about using it.

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