Lanny H Golf is the future of golf information.
I am not joking.
I don’t mean me or this website, specifically, nor do I limit my remark to golf or sports news. I mean news sources like this one, which are not beholden to advertisers. Soon they will be the only trustworthy sources of news and analysis.
Why am I bringing this up now? Because of recent reports concerning the writers at Sports Illustrated.
Something interesting is going on at Time Inc. right now. Apparently, they are laying off writers based on whether or not they are deemed beneficial to advertisers. This is especially the case at Sports Illustrated, where layoffs have been a major story in recent years.
Awful Announcing points to the original news-breaking article at Gawker:
Time Inc. has fallen on hard times. Would you believe that this once-proud magazine publishing empire is now explicitly rating its editorial employees based on how friendly their writing is to advertisers?
I’ve written several times in the past about the separation of church and state as it pertains to publishing. At one time, this divide was a critical element of news and sports reporting, but it seems to be on the way out. When we lose this separation, we will lose all credibility in reporting.
The idea behind the separation of church and state is that a publication’s prime responsibility is to its readers (or viewers, or listeners, in other media). The publication needs credibility, or they won’t keep their readers.
Others in a company would say, “Well, keeping readers is great and all, but the real prime responsibility is to make a profit. If we don’t make a profit, we’ll go under, so there won’t be anything for the readers to read.” This line of thinking, taken to an extreme, would result in companies paying for articles. Say DisneyWorld sends the New York Times a big check for an ad buy, and a front page article appears, entitled, “DisneyWorld is the Only Vacation Worth Taking.”
The solution to this tug-of-war between the editorial side and the business side is for the editorial side to run as a separate entity, and for the business side to run as a separate entity. That’s separation of church and state. If the business side is working on a huge ad buy from Ford, editorial is not prohibited from printing an article, “Ford Cars Cause Dementia,” no matter how much consternation it might cause the ad salesmen.
But, now, Sports Illustrated (and the rest of Time Inc.) appear to have not only torn down the wall between editorial and business, but to be actively encouraging writers to cater to the desires of advertisers.
The Gawker article had links to several other pertinent articles:
CapitalNewYork.com: The building’s open floor plan will encourage more collaboration between the business and creative staffs at Time Inc., and between brands, Ripp said.
JimRomenesko.com: Last fall, new Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp told his editors that they’d be reporting to the business side rather than to the editor-in-chief – a move that Ad Age said “sent a ripple of anxiety” through the company’s editorial offices.
That CapitalNewYork article referenced this one from Ad Age: [T]he new Time Inc. Native Group will work with advertisers, brand editors and publishers to develop and implement native programs and strategies across the company’s 25-title portfolio.
What this means is we won’t know if we are getting real reporting or glorified ad copy. Remember those ads in the old Sunday newspaper magazine inserts? They looked just like real articles except for the word “Advertisement” at the top of the page. Well, everything is headed in that direction now, only they won’t even bother to warn us with the word “Advertisement” at the top.
It won’t be long until the only credible sources of news analysis are websites like this one. I don’t take advertising money from anyone, so I can write what I consider important, regardless of whom I might alienate. The thing is, though: I don’t need the income. Most sportswriters want to get paid, and most of their employers are companies that want to make a profit. So they have, as a practical matter, little choice but to sell out to the highest bidder. But how long will consumers tolerate that?
I wrote this nearly two years ago:
I must add one last point, lest you later accuse me of being daft. [Neither] Chamblee, nor anyone else, can actually say anything of substance about Rory’s equipment change. Why not? Because they can’t risk alienating Nike or Titleist, both being too critical to advertising dollar inflow. Sean Foley doesn’t buy tens or hundreds of million dollars worth of advertising, so he can be bashed endlessly. You have heard me say it many times before: there is zero separation of church and state in the American golf media.
And it’s about to get worse.