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Is This Journalistically Ethical Behavior?

August 13th, 2010 by jake · 10 Comments

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.

Tags: Business · Health Care · Journalism · Weather · WHAS

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roger // Aug 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    They should have mentioned it as a courtesy to Dr. Sublett as well as for full disclosure.

  • 2 Valkyrie // Aug 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    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.

  • 3 Mark H (Not Hebert) // Aug 13, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    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.

  • 4 jake // Aug 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks for chiming in, folks.

    Just trying to get a handle on how folks feel about issues like this locally.

  • 5 Larry West // Aug 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    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.

  • 6 Gordon // Aug 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Should have been a disclosure.

  • 7 Bruce Maples // Aug 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    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.

  • 8 bill // Aug 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    In the grand scheme of things WHO REALLY GIVES A SH@T!! Get a life people!

  • 9 jake // Aug 13, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Who held a gun to your head and forced you to comment?

    Don’t like it, don’t read it.

  • 10 TP // Aug 14, 2010 at 8:12 am

    Agree it should be disclosed. And, in full disclosure, he’s my allergist, too.