SF Sponsorship Didn't Influence My Story, but it sure looks like it

by Anthony Kaufman
April 12, 2006 6:55 AM
3 Comments
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One of the problems with the corporate media today is the blurred lines between content and advertisment, news and marketing. Big companies cultivate and embrace this shift -- when people change the channel during the commercials, they figure out ways to insert their products directly into the shows. Alas, product placement reigns. But after seeing my story today in indieWIRE about Spring Festivals, which includes reporting on the San Francisco International Film Festival, along with Tribeca and Cannes, I was a little perturbed to see that the "coverage" was "sponsored" by the San Francisco Film Society, presenters of the San Francisco fest. My very own byline appears directly underneath -- not the headline -- but the phrase: "World Cinema coverage presented by San Francisco Film Society."

Normally, this would be called a conflict of interest. I'm not sure how to avoid it, because indieWIRE needs the money. But it just goes to show how dependent independent media is. I'm happy to say that while writing the story nobody told me to even include mention of the SFIFF and I had no concious knowledge of the sponsorship when I was writing the piece, but I admit it looks unseemly -- if anyone was paying attention. Maybe no one cares. But I guess that's just as bad.

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3 Comments

  • Anderson | April 13, 2006 7:25 AMReply

    I'll try my comment again, since it seems to be evading approval: eug, you miss his specific point, namely, that the sponsor was among those being covered in the story it sponsored. That's not the case with a car or popcorn sponsor. And that's what looks like a conflict of interest to the casual reader. So I respectfully submit that by overlooking that distinction, you're condescending to Anthony and his point, a feeling aggravated by the "this is how we raise the money to pay you to write for us" bit.

  • eug | April 13, 2006 5:16 AMReply

    hi anderson,

    thanks for your comment.

    i have tremendous respect for anthony and he has complete freedom when he writes for us. my comment about him getting paid was a joke. (although, i can see how it might not translate that way in a blog comment.)

    he and i have worked together for nearly 10 years and as indieWIRE's first features editor he is well aware of our high editorial standards. we take these sorts of issues very seriously.

    my only issue is that he didnt raise this with me directly and i had to read about his concerns in his blog. but he and i can talk about that directly, rather than through this blog.

    in all seriousness, we would never want to inadvertently compromise the credibility of a writer, or the publication. nor would we ever want an advertiser or sponsor to influence or coverage in any way, or appear to have done so.

  • Anderson | April 12, 2006 10:34 AMReply

    eug, you miss his specific point: that the coverage was sponsored by one of the entities being covered, which looks like a conflict of interest. It's not just the presence of a sponsor; the popcorn maker and car companies were not being reviewed in those articles. Read before bloviating. Also, nice--very classy to sarcastically joke about not paying one of your writers.

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