The News Product

At first blush, a story like this would be cause for celebration among the legions of marketers who never really understood journalism, and the sanctity of news to begin with. Hollywood Reporter reports, and Reuters picked up the story on how some local TV news stations, faced with ever-tightening budgets, are opening the door for product placement and commercial “integration” in their newscasts.

Sure, as a PR person, the prospect of leveraging paid advertising or a promotion to gain a presence in a news report for a client’s product or service seems like a no-brainer. Perhaps we as a profession won’t be encumbered any longer by the chore of having to prove a product’s newsworthiness to ensure its inclusion in a news segment?

It was inevitable that market forces would eventually compromise the editorial integrity of news organizations — with local TV news logically the first to capitulate. Still, I truly believe this is an unfortunate and dangerous trend.

Let the entertainment programmers drop into their work all the products and commercial mentions their hearts desire. (Who didn’t catch the awkwardly out-of-place Nesquik package in the opening sequence of “The Sopranos” Sunday night?) In fact, there are new digital technologies that make it so easy to do nowadays.

“We’re all trying to find ways of integrating commercial messages into content that satisfy the audience and advertisers without hurting our product,” KRON president and general manager Mark Antonitis said. “When you’re an independent, you’ve got to do what you can to survive. You bank on your credibility as a news organization every day, but you also have to be successful as a business. You have to be creative for your advertisers without compromising the credibility of your news organization.”

Tread lightly, Mark.