Is This Journalistically Ethical Behavior?

I get a lot of crap from traditional journalists all the time about ethics. Despite, of course, our financial interests with folks or causes we may write about being fully disclosed in the form of ads on the site.

But I saw an interview last evening on WHAS11’s 6:00 P.M. newscast of my allergist, Dr. James Sublett. The discussion was about the extreme heat, asthma and such. Throughout the entire interview, I noticed something interesting.

Take a look at a screengrab:


The giant AllergyZone filter and the assortment of filtered masks you see are products produced and sold by a company owned by Sublett. There wasn’t a disclosure during the entire segment.

Is that ethical? Was this an advertisement?

I’m not trashing Sublett or his business. I spend my money on his products (so should you, as they’re a great local alternative to the big names – get the filters at your local Kroger) and trust him to make sure I don’t die from the asthma and allergy haze. But shouldn’t the television station disclose something like that?

I genuinely want to know.

10 thoughts on “Is This Journalistically Ethical Behavior?

  1. Unless they are sponsored by the company that makes those products they don’t have any obligation to disclose that the Dr. Sublett owns the companies that makes those products. But I agree with Roger that it would have been a nice courtesy for Dr. Sublett to mention those products are made by a local company that he owns.

  2. The line between content and advertising has been blurred over the past few years to the point where I have to assume that product or name brand I see in any broadcast is there for a reason.

    Just look at the network morning news shows. Is NBC’s Today Show doing a “news” segment on the 12yo girl on America’s Got Talent marketing or news? As technology makes it even easier to skip commercials, they are going to be worked into the content more and more.

    As media companies lay off more and more staff, they are going to have to look outside of more authorities on various subjects. Those authorities are going to want something (public exposure) in exchange for their efforts.

  3. Agree with you that the disclosure should be made.
    The worst culprit is those Subway mentions on NBC’s Chuck. They do put a small note in the ending credits, but I don’t think they lengthen the show by the Subway ads. I feel cheated.

    Having heard that 12yo girl, I think she is a better singer than even Susan Boyle. She’ll probably win.

  4. Disclosure, absolutely. I didn’t see the spot, so I’m going to comment based on two scenarios:
    — He never talked about filters and they just sat there. In that case, the spot was just wierd (“why are those things sitting around?”) and the disclosure was needed just for the product placement. The disclosure could be after the spot, but it was needed.
    — He DID talk about filters, and used his own products as examples of what people could buy. In that case, both he and the station (if they knew) are guilty of a serious breach of journalistic ethics. Not disclosing a financial interest in something you are promoting is lying by omission.

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