Thursday, March 28, 2013

Newsvertising: the issue here is journalistic integrity.



It's been interesting to see some of the reaction to our two recent posts about "Newsvertising" (see here and here).

The issue: paid advertisements dressed up as legitimate news stories, particularly when presented in a way which doesn't clearly inform that what you are reading isn't news.

There are those, like realtor Arnold Shuchat, who understand the importance of what we are saying. From a comment he made to our post on the topic:
Obviously, the real trick these days is finding people with a modicum of integrity. People have a tendency to believe the printed word and to be more ready and willing to accept journalistic reports from a major news source as facts. Well, the newspapers and those who rely on them for their latest market intelligence deserve each other!

One would probably be better served to take a contrarian approach to most newspaper reports dealing with real estate investment. As has been said before, "buy on bad news and sell on good news".

At least when it comes to reporting, the "Blog" has shown that it can weather criticism and using the strength and depth of its readership, can unearth truth to a greater and more objective standard.

Good report Whisperer.... story needs to be told!
Shuchat is absolutely right, this is a story that needs to be told.

Unfortunately there are others who simply don't get it:


Sigh.

The point is that the Vancouver Province/Sun conglomerate has already demonstrated they are willing to take paid advertisements and present them as actual news stories with little or no indication that what you are reading isn't real news.

By doing this, they bring into question the integrity of all the other news stories they publish. The two gallery spots that we focused on yesterday are just examples of the doubt that is raised.

Let's face it, how does a posting comparing the insane real estate in Vancouver with another city in North America end up being profiled in the Vancouver Sun within hours of it being originally posted at Pricey Pads?

To get published in the Vancouver Sun that fast means that the Sun would have had to independently came across the PP article within moments of it being posted, which defies all rational credulity.

Which is why it raises the spectre that the Sun's Gallery feature is probably a paid advertising feature. If it is advertising, the public deserves be told so:


This isn't an issue about Pricey Pads having done something wrong (they haven't, at worst all they have done is bought advertising to promote their site), it's about journalistic integrity.

And when that integrity is brought into doubt, you start to question everything.

Take this Gallery which appeared in yesterday's paper.


From the description:
Architect John Hollifield has taken 20 years to completely rebuild this family home, now listed for $2.68 million. The main floor boasts light open space, with flowing principal and natural light pouring in from the adjacent sunroom. Located in Vancouver's exclusive Point Grey neighbourhood, this home is close to some of the best schools that the city has to offer, as well as the almost limitless amenities of West 10th Avenue and the sandy beaches of Spanish Banks.
From the photo caption:
Architect John Hollifield has taken 20 years to completely rebuild this family home. The main floor boasts light open space, with flowing principal and natural light pouring in from the adjacent sunroom. Located in Vancouver's exclusive Point Grey neighbourhood, this home is close to some of the best schools that the city has to offer, as well as the almost limitless amenities of West 10th Avenue and the unique sandy beaches of Spanish Banks. For more information, visit Sotheby's International Realty Canada.
News story or a real estate ad?

Some might argue that because a well known architect has been labouring for 2 decades to bring this property to market for sale, it's a noteworthy news story. But if you click on the Sotheby's link, you go to actual real estate listing.  There you learn "this home represents the culmination of a full 20 years of progressive refinement."

Progressive refinement?

So basically this guy (who works as an architect) has been doing ongoing improvements to the house he's lived in over the past 20 years and now he's decided to sell it.... and somehow this is news?

It looks like another dressed-up real estate ad to us. 

The Vancouver Sun/Province shouldn't be in a position where people are questioning whether they are looking at actual journalism or if they are looking at an advertisement.

Journalistic integrity is the basic foundation of any news organization. Even Alphabet Arnie understands this.

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22 comments:

  1. Whisperer...here's another article to follow.

    http://business.financialpost.com/2013/03/27/canada-housing-retirement/?__lsa=35ba-81c5

    The subject of the piece works for a mortgage company. In fact, it's the same mortgage company that a fellow employee is quoted in the article. Nowhere in the article is it mentioned. Journalistic integrity my a$$.

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    1. Hat tip to Many Franks at VCI who posted that the author of the above article works for Blue Sky Communications which is a PR firm. Hmmm...

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    2. I hope you are making a post about this one, Whisperer.

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    3. wow this could seriously be a full time gig exposing these idiots.

      Nice work everyone:)

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    4. Whisperer - I hope you make a posting on the latest Vancouver Sun article. Allan Hoegg is featured as a typical consumer, but nowhere in the article does it mention he works for Rob Regan-Pollock mortgage brokers in Vancouver:

      http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Home+where+money/8157516/story.html

      This story also ran in the Financial Post:

      http://business.financialpost.com/2013/03/27/canada-housing-retirement/?__lsa=6bb1-32e4

      Here is the website proving he is an employee of Rob Regan-Pollock mortgage brokers and his boss, Rob Regan-Pollock, was cited as a expert opinion.

      http://teamrrp.com/team/

      What is the value of buying a Vancouver Sun newspaper if you can't trust what you are reading is a true story or a paid advertisement!

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    5. There is no comment section on the Vancouver Sun "news story" to warn unsuspecting readers that they are reading a public relations piece.

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  2. Thanks for Whisperer to point out the degradation of our BC newspapers in an eloquent way that's simple to understand, and gets right to the point. It's unfortunate that the poster mentioned in your latest post would attack you in a personal way, instead of with reasons. I hope he/she would just blindly follow whatever newspapers say, buy a house at inflated price, and be a financial slave to the bank for the next 30 years.

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  3. screw them!

    for FREE online access simply hit the 'stop' or 'stop loading' button after the page is up, but before the green paywall window shows up - read all the "adstories" for free. if you are late - simply reload and stop.

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  4. Funny you should use that photo, Whisperer. Some educated critics of journalism say the beginning of the end of journalism started with Mr. Cronkite himself. The charge is, like Terminator II, he became self-aware of his importance and began to insert himself, his opinions, and even worse, his feelings into the story. Add 50 years of airheads getting into the news business and you have where we are today.

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  5. First, I agree that "Newsvertising" should be clearly identified in order to keep the credibility of a newspaper strong.

    Unfortunately, your blog regarding Pricey Pads completely distracted everyone from the point of your piece. The distraction for me came from several areas, but most importantly your lack of research and fact.

    You stated in the previous blog and in this one that:

    "Let's face it, how does a posting comparing the insane real estate in Vancouver with another city in North America end up being profiled in the Vancouver Sun within hours of it being originally posted at Pricey Pads?

    To get published in the Vancouver Sun that fast means that the Sun would have had to independently came across the PP article within moments of it being posted, which defies all rational credulity."

    Did you ever think that the Vancouver Sun and PP had a conversation prior to either publishing the comparison? Maybe PP went to Sun to see if they would be interested in pubishing it? Freelance writers do that all the time. It is how you build your resume.

    I am sure there are other "newsvertising" articles that would have been actual examples of "newsvertising" to prove your point and keep the readers focus on the issue.

    Journalism 101: Research and the Importance of Fact

    I wonder how much research you did prior to blogging about the PP articles. Mrs. Carr as being at it for over a year you state. Mr. Cal has been at it for 3 years (which you did not state). You state that Mrs. Carr has been associated with GlobalTV and CKNW. You forgot to mention Mr. Cal's association with HGTV and "Million Dollar Rooms"... or maybe there was no research done unless it proved your point.

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    1. Anonymous, you clearly have a bee in your bonnet regarding Whisperer's focus on PriceyPads. If you know details about communications between Vancouver Sun and PP, as I suspect you do, why not lay it out for us? If you're involved with PP, or are in fact Mr. Cal, I think it would be very interesting to hold some up-front Q&A here about how listings end up on PP and how this one went so quickly from there to the Vancouver Sun.

      Between any product's marketer and the media are a lot of vested interests, some complicit and some not, and a lot of ways a story can be "laundered" into a legit-looking story when in fact it ought to be marked as advertising. Without clarity all the "middlemen" risk getting tarred with the same brush. Consider this an opportunity.

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  6. Just say'n

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20130328-702571.html

    AB

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  7. Journalism 101: Research and the Importance of Fact

    http://www.vancouversun.com/about-vancouver-sun/advertising/specs/rate-card.html


    ;-)

    AB

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  8. I for one find it somewhat that blogs (a digital medium) are taking aim at the falling journalistic standards of newspapers (an analog one). The disruption of traditional funding models for the operations of newspapers is intimately tied to the rise of the Internet and digitization. Craigslist and other online classifieds (Kijiji, etc.) are why the print editors are having to kowtow to one of the last viable avenues of advertising revenue: real estate. The multi-page, glossy adverts paid for so handsomely by Bob Rennie, et al. are the last thing standing between The Vancouver Sun and shuttered offices. Is there really any wonder what's driving this confluence of interests which has produced falling journalistic standards and the rise of newsvertizing? Hell, just the other day the Sun introduced a paywall for their digital site, once again demonstrating that they are trying to find ways to get the toothpaste back in the tube. Paywalls might be a viable option for prestige papers like the NY Times but who the hell is going to ante up for low quality local journalism when there's plenty of other online sources with equal, if not better, news sources and none of the questions Whisperer is so correctly highlighting here? I just find it amusing that a blog is wondering what happened to newspaper standards. It's like driving someone over with your car and then asking them the next day how they got tire tracks down their back. Video killed the radio star, my pretties.

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  9. These info-mercials posing as news articles are quite disturbing. It's hard to know what is real and what is not. The whole world is like this now; product placement in movies, paid for news 'article'. It's like I don't want to go out anymore.

    That's why I'm choosing to move to Vancouver's new vibrant neighbourhood; Southeast False Creek. Everything is close by and there's lots to do so I won't have to sit around and watch Global or read the Sun. And by cancelling my cable and paper subscription, I can take advantage of the great pre-sales deals Onni is offering at their new 100 Block.

    No more info-mercials for me!

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  10. All of this shows that the R/E rot really does spread from the inside out. Liars, cheats, and thieves, all of them.

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  11. Many Franks... I am not Mr. Cal. I am not associated with Pricey Pads. I have no information regarding how he promotes his business.

    I am a fan of his Facebook page and visit his website periodically. My interest is purely for my own entertainment.

    If you would like to take the time to visit his facebook page, then I believe he has answered your question. The process to becoming published on the Van Sun website was not the way in which I thought.

    In fact, a little research to find the facts by the writer (ie. a phone call or email to Mr. Cal) would have required a new example to be used.

    I have no doubt "newsvertizing" is being used at the Sun, but at least do the little amount of research required to find the facts prior to making Pricey Pads look like a part of the problem.

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    1. Thanks -- I see on the PP Facebook page that Mr. Cal claims that tagging the Vancouver Sun in a PP tweet is responsible for catching their attention so quickly. Whisperer, that sounds plausible to me, though contacting the Sun to confirm with them would be the investigative journalist thing to do. Unfortunately that Vancouver Sun story doesn't have a byline (something that should never happen IMO) so it's not clear who to contact.

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    2. While I'm talking to myself: this doesn't totally get the Vancouver Sun off the hook. If PP is selling spots, and the Vancouver Sun sees PP as a good source of ready-to-air material, wouldn't that in effect give realtors a shot at buying space in the Vancouver Sun that isn't marked as advertising content? This is the laundering I was referring to above. (And the Vancouver Sun ought to care, since it's effectively giving PP the ad revenue it would rather be earning itself.)

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  12. I'm the Vancouver Sun web editor responsible for that Pricey Pads gallery, so I thought I should probably chime in here. This was absolutely *not* paid content. Real estate galleries do very well for us online -- people got nuts for them for whatever reason -- and Pricey Pads is an easy source to find outrageous listings. On the day in question, I arrived at work at 5 p.m., caught myself up on the news of the day, then clicked on priceypads.com, where I saw this real estate comparison. It was easy click bait and I couldn't resist doing a gallery. Hope that clears things up a bit.

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    1. Bethany, thanks for taking the time to respond. May I ask why the galleries are published without a byline? It would be nice to know who to contact about a particular gallery, rather than letting the rumour mill run. (This would've also been nice for a recent Province gallery about the magic West Vancouver palace.)

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    2. Our online publishing software doesn't allow bylines on photo galleries. I'm not really sure why that is. But in the future, if you have questions or concerns about content on the Sun website, the general email address for the online team is sunwebfile@vancouversun.com

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