Brand Journalism: The Conflict of Advertising

Journalism and the conflict of advertising

    With the ever present nature of business and how it just keeps booming, it’s no surprise that it’s reaching into many different things. Movies, something that has been around from a long period of time, music, and sports. Even video games have begun to have advertising companies and products in their games, sports games especially. One such venture is journalism, and it becoming more and more prominent. While there are the benefits to the partnership between corporations and the articles that they sponsor, it does create a certain conflict of interest. While there is a debate between the two regarding which is the better method, both sides of the argument have valid points, but the dissemination of new to reach audiences is more beneficial than the argument surrounding them.

Brand journalism, the combination of marketeers and journalism, is the semi-official term for this relation. People in this position have generally worked in both positions in their life, so they use their knowledge to blend the two together. This combination has its upsides, definitely. From the perspective of a journalist, it’s a bit of leeway. When it comes to creating a journalistic piece, there are many different factors that go into this. According to an article from WritingCommons.org titled Journalism: Gathering Information and Writing Your Story, author Quentin Vieregge writes that the “The first step to writing a story involves gathering information about your topic” (para. 3). Journalism is one of the many fields that researches before everything else, and much like many of the other fields, there are costs. Whether it’s the costs associated with researching, such as travel and expenses, to payment from the employer, it is vital in the process, but most things in life cost money.

That’s where the brand comes in. By working with a company, they help fund the process, making it so that the amount of time necessary can be taken in order to get the best possible outcome imaginable for the project. This gives the author plenty of time to research every possible facet of the story, from eyewitnesses and passerby’s, to experts in the field they’re researching. With funding, they have the time and resources to commit to fully researching the issue at hand. In the time period as well, new studies and discoveries could emerge from the ever changing fields, or more information could come to light on a certain subject.

Another outcome of brand journalism is exposure. While there are major major outlets that frequently report on major news events and issues in all mediums, from Newsweek to NBC. With many issues that are frequently in the news, it’s harder from some articles that are written to be seen. With the help of a company, it can be, I wouldn’t say prioritized, but definitely in a more front page that it could have been. That’s just for more traditional periodical mediums, such as newspapers. Popular social media websites and applications such as Facebook and Twitter have features that will allow users or members of the sites to pay to have an article or advertisement promoted. With millions and millions of likes on many different pages, it’s easy to send users to view the article and share it with as many people that follow them as well.  Telling the stories that show these companies in bright lights are going to earn the trust of the reader or viewer. For example, take the Ronald McDonald House Charities; every year they help many families that are in desperate need of assistance with medicine. Frequently, there are reports of families that have been there and how hospitable and comforting they were in their child’s bleakest hours. While this news is good news, it’s also coming from McDonald’s, leading to shed a positive light on the humanitarian side of the company. Companies, such as Red Bull with their extreme sports articles, give insight as to the people who do death defying stunts, such as Felix Baumgartner, who completed a freefall from 120,000 feet in the air. Red Bull sponsored the event, provided all the necessary equipment, and then distributed it amongst outlets, along with the data they collected from the jump itself, in order to further studies related to physics.

The downsides, however, are more ethically based. People may not trust in an article that is branded with a company that they do like like or trust. The credibility comes into question when an article about the health risks associated to high cholesterol sponsored by McDonald’s. When it comes to news and keeping up to date with concerns that are worldwide to small town, people would prefer to have it be as unbiased as possible, which is a potential issue that is prevalent in brand journalism. Say, for instance, that an article was running a comparison to a bunch of different vehicles and how safe they are. Brand after brand, model after model, all of the different facts regarding the pros and cons of safety are brought up in a fair manner. Then, a car comes up and the flaws are minuscule cosmetic things and the car is deemed the safest vehicle at the dealership. If the article was written in tandem with working with the dealership, then the motives come into question. Whether or not the car is safe or if it is just being marketed that way to promote itself and make it seem better than the competition are decent things to take away, but the question comes more to the vehicle being safe and if it really is all what it’s cracked up to be. I understand that a situation such as this is rather hyperbolic, but it sort of gives an insight as to whether the credibility of an article such as this is positive. It happens though, not to this extent, but a bit of bias that turns out to seriously injure someone to something even worse not only reflects poorly on the company, but the author and the outlet itself. The loss of trust between a news source and its viewers or readers is something that is very hard to repair.

There is even an internal divide between marketeers and journalists on what to say and how to say it. With more and more companies choosing to go with brand journalism in order to promote pieces while also getting to write about what interests them, there is also the fading presence of traditional journalism. Traditional journalism is a tightly woven schedule. A friend of mine who worked at a local newspaper in my home of Wellsville, New York, would often have to research the story, write the article, and hand it to the editor to proofread. If there were any mistakes or if it was too long or too short, then he would have to go back and edit it, sometimes well past the time of closing, just to make sure that the article was prepped and ready to go out with the paper the next day. The process is long, tedious, and arduous, but to him, he wouldn’t change any bit of it, because it’s what he wants to do. Brand journalism has many of the same qualities as this, but it can be a lot more spread out, written in a more timely manner. The editing would be to ensure the details regarding it are what need to be said, and potentially how the company is helping in the situation, to show them in a good light.

All in all, there is a hefty middle ground between the two styles. Traditional journalism and keeping the old spirit of generations past, to brand journalism and the more storytelling styles of the brand in question. While both have their perks, traditional journalism being as unbiased as possible and solely for the purpose of informing the greater public of current happenings, and brand journalism being there to spread stories and ideas that are beliefs of the company. Both have their downsides, from funding to ethics, but there is a place for both of them in the world. If an article is sponsored and spreading information on a topic largely not discussed, then it’s spreading the word on it, and informing readers of something they may need to look out for. In the current day and age of social media, news being credible is hard to find, especially without bias. If both sides of journalism respect this, then there is a common ground between the two, and the dissemination of correct, factually driven and checked news, then people will view and respect the story more than what they find on blogs or unaccredited articles. In the end, the conflict and controversy surrounding the two is going to happen, for any of the reasons discussed. It’s inevitable, really, as people have their preferences. People favor certain authors for articles, people distrust companies, it’s human nature. It comes down to personal belief, but in reality, they’re both journalism.

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