In the following clip, you’ll hear how ABC news treated two paying advertisers (Starbucks and Papa John’s Pizza) and cashed in their advertising dollars during a national evening news broadcast.
The following is the short summary for those reading text only.
Summary: A national news anchor reads teleprompter copy about how Starbucks is adding a new ingredient to their annual Pumpkin Spiced Latte. It now comes with real pumpkin! Hooray. That’s the news. How fun. The next one is about how the founder of Papa John’s pizza lost the car he originally sold to start the pizza chain. He sold it to finance the chain (according to lore), he bought it back, then it was mysteriously stolen and found right in time for this national news spot next to Starbucks.
The first bit about Starbucks is blatant. For years they’ve been trotting out the Pumpkin Spice Latte around the holidays. This particular year, they modified their story a little – “now with real pumpkin!” – in order to make it kind of a news story. What’s ludicrous is that the nightly news would run such a story and treat it as if it’s news. They’ll talk all day long about “fake news” these days, but they’re taking ad buys week in and week out to support these native ads. It’s the same thing that BuzzFeed and Vox do, but it’s supposed to be this pure, traditional, conventional media outlet that we all should trust to get our daily dose of what’s real. It’s not some web property with questionable backers. This is the national news that’s been held up as a model of fairness and reliability for decades. These network news operations have been in business since the 1950’s, guiding the American public about breaking events, wars, fires, weather disasters and the like.
The problem is that the modern format for TV news has been forced to change because of the internet and various other economic and viewer behavior changes. It used to be different. There was clear separation of advertising and news.