Arizona Republic Article on Macy's Promotion Blurs Lines Between Journalism and Advertising

By Ray Stern

Even without its last sentence, the short article about a Macy's Christmas promotion in Saturday's Arizona Republic reads like an ad.

But the way story concludes seems to demolish the wall that normally stands between journalistic and commercial content: "An ad with additional details will appear in Sunday's Arizona Republic."

Sure enough, a huge, two-page ad by Macy's showed up in the "A" section of the Republic on Sunday.

That made me wonder -- was publication of the article by business reporter Cathryn Creno part of the deal to sell a big ad that probably cost five figures to run?

No way, says Kathy Tulumello, editor of the Republic's business section.

"I don't put my pages for sale that way," Tulumello says. "There's no big, concerted effort here."

Still, with regard to the wording in the story that directs people to an ad, "we probably could have done better about that," Tulumello admits.

The fact is, too many articles in newspapers these days are little more than re-writes of press releases that were put out by businesses with a direct monetary interest in seeing an article published. This trend of journalistic laziness goes too far when articles refer readers directly to ads.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern