UNCA professor Mark West criticizes AC-T on unlabeled political advertisement

Mountain Area Information Network Release

From Mark D. West, Ph.D.

The Asheville Citizen-Times ran a 48-page paid political insert, sponsored by a firm owned by Republican state representative Tim Moffitt, in its November 27 print edition without disclosing to readers the origin or sponsorship of the document.

The insert, which was not readily distinguishable from newspaper content, praised the actions of the state legislature under Republican control as it cut educational budgets, eviscerated environmental programs, and pursued gerrymandering projects which brought about a Federal lawsuit against the state.

Management of the Citizen-Times, which is owned by the Gannett newspaper chain, apologized on WLOS-TV for not labeling the insert as advertising, but did not mention its origin in Rep. Tim Moffitt’s InTouchNC, LLC. This firm’s business location is in Moffitt’s home, according to legal filings.

The insert itself makes no mention of Moffitt’s affiliation, although copies of the insert appear on Moffitt’s web site.

“The fact that the piece was paid for has to be prominently and clearly indicated,” says Dave Weinberger of the Harvard Business Review in a July 2013 article about sponsored journalism. And that’s precisely where Gannett failed. Worse, in their apology, they didn’t come clean about the political linkages of the sponsors of the insert.

The statement in the newspaper says that the Citizen “apologizes for any confusion [the failure to label the insert as advertising] may have created.” That’s akin to saying “I’m sorry calling you a name offended you;” it’s an apology that does not really admit to wrongdoing.

The Citizen-Times should cover this major failure of journalistic ethics like any other news story. They should report on who did what, when, and how.

“If advertorials become effectively indistinguishable from editorial, aren’t we in danger of destroying the village in order to save it?” Andrew Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic, wrote in a recent blog post. That’s a message the Citizen-Times should seriously consider.

About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton@gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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0 thoughts on “UNCA professor Mark West criticizes AC-T on unlabeled political advertisement

    • Dionysis

      I wrote something on this, it appeared for a short time and now has been removed. No bad language, no rules violation. But presto, it’s now gone.

    • jburhoe

      Shame on anyone for exercising their free speech.

      Your eyeball is so very scary. You look like a real Big Brother.

    • bsummers

      “Shame on anyone for exercising their free speech.”

      If this is just Tim Moffitt exercising his free speech, why is he afraid to put his name on it?

      “Your eyeball is so very scary. You look like a real Big Brother.”

      Yes, Tim Mofftt, ALEC Board member & Chairman of the International Relations Task Force, powerful state legislator & possible future Speaker, with tens of thousands of dollars to spend on a statewide megaphone for his political viewpoint, and no local media willing to ask him hard questions, is definitely the victim here. And me with my 8 year old laptop and grudging access to the comment section of the XPress… I’m definitely the oppressor here. Wow. Feel the power…

  1. bsummers

    What did you write? And where was it that you posted it – here?

    • Dionysis

      Yes, it was here. I imagine if I re-posted it, it would be removed again. Basically, it was a criticism of the fact that there are really no true newspapers left, they’re mostly propaganda organs or offer up fluff and bilge instead of actual news. The AC-T was specified, but others venues were alluded to in the post. Get my drift?

    • Dionysis

      Yes, but with the rise of the Thought Police in virtually every area of life these days, it is no surprise.

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