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Ethics Debate: Information Age Journalism

The internet has allowed nearly every person and every company to be a source of information, often times free of charge.  This breakdown of the traditional journalism business model of advertising and subscription dollars has forced many media outlets to look for new ways of generating revenue.  With this ability to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of media and journalism, it is a buyer beware market for information out there.  Readers must be aware of the source of the information they are consuming, and do their due diligence to verify what they are being told.  The rise of brand journalism, or corporate media as some now call it, has raised some ethical questions about the way information is published.

Forbes is one publication that has welcomed the rise of brand journalism with a new section designed specifically for corporate created content.  In doing so, Forbes has tried their utmost to draw a clear and distinct line between what they consider traditional journalism having its own section, versus what they consider brand journalism having its own section.  As Forbes itself explains it, “the critical requirement is transparency, which means proper identification and labeling.”   With the originally titled AdVoice, now rebranded as BrandVoice, Forbes has given companies a separate platform to pay for the privilege of speaking directly to their readers.   Forbes has used BrandVoice in conjunction with traditional ads to evolve their business model in an effort to generate more revenue.   Forbes executive Mark Howard, notes, “BrandVoice partners who also buy traditional advertising across our site now account for 10% of our revenues.”

Others have taken a more cautious or contrarian approach.  Journalist Tom Foremski ponders the possibility that, for example, a fashion designer such as Hugo Boss would ever publish a piece on the effects and consequences of child labor in the fashion industry.  Preferring accuracy in terminology Foremski laments the idea that something he considers a clear public relations piece published by a company about its own products could be re-branded as anything but PR.  Kelly Toughill, a professor of journalism in Canada, points out that independence for journalists covering a topic has always been a hallmark of ensuring that the public good is always the number one goal of journalism.  She goes on to clarify her concerns and distinctions between traditional journalism and brand journalism, “journalism explicitly promises to serve the interests of its audiences and its community first. But in brand journalism, that is not the case.”

For some, it comes down to the manner in which the company engaging in brand journalism handles its employees.  From this perspective, it is acceptable if the brand journalists are allowed to operate free of interference from their bosses and report on the stories they see fit, in the way they see fit.   Cisco has its own publication called The Network that it puts out on technology industry trends.  Cisco hired traditional journalist Scott Gurvey for The Network.   Scott Gurvey had previously worked for CBS and PBS among other traditional journalism outlets.    Cisco has taken a hands off approach to Gurvey’s work, even allowing him to publish an article that deals with subject matter which is the opposite of Cisco’s core business model.  Of these ethical concerns Gurvey says, “The issue for me was how was this going to be operated, and nothing the Cisco people ask me to do compromises the reporting of the stories I’ve done, so I have no problem with this.”

Many people in this debate point out that traditional journalism itself has always relied on advertising to pay for their journalism.  In a way, journalists have always been brand journalists and the advertising in their publication is also a reflection on them.  As well, in today’s era of vertically and horizontally integrated multinational media conglomerates, the corporate overlords are invariably tied to other interests.  CBS had famously tried to kill a story on the negative effects of cigarettes that was to run on its show 60 Minutes due to the corporate relations to a tobacco company.  This was part of the whistle-blower episode that turned into the movie The Insider starring Hollywood legends Al Paccino and Russell Crowe.  While this movie covers the internal power struggles within both the tobacco company and CBS itself, the rise of so many alternative media outlets, not to mention social media, means there is no shortage of ways that any side of a subject can tell their story.  McDonald’s tried its hand at brand journalism to portray positive stories of farmers from whom it buys much of its ingredients.  McDonald’s even paid to have some tweets from the campaign promoted on Twitter.  This sparked a public backlash from the Twitter-verse offering up unsolicited public outcry from a variety of viewpoints from the animal cruelty perspective to just how bad the diarrhea is from eating McDonalds.  “Even though the company used the hashtag only twice, a legion of critics pounced on #McDStories to tell their own tales of weed or animal cruelty.”   Apparently that hashtag continues to bounce around the Twitter-verse as a source of mockery and is taught in marketing programs as to how quickly a poorly conceived campaign of brand journalism can go bad.   As McDonald’s found out social media, at times, can be the great equalizer where all the corporate money in the world cannot buy positive feedback from citizen journalists that have had bad experiences with some facet of their business.

The simultaneous rise of citizen journalists and the new era of brand journalism has created a three sided tug of war over information and stories between them and traditional journalism.  Many citizens like to hear information directly from a corporation about how their products can benefit them in their day to day lives, and then do further research to verify that information through other means.  Some publications are making a clear distinction between their traditional journalism content and their branded journalism so their readers can be aware of the source.  The awareness of the ethical concerns about branded journalism being mistaken for traditional journalism reflect the many voices making themselves heard from all sides in this debate.   The information age has thus become both buyer and seller beware.  The buyer must know what the source of information is, and the seller must be aware of the public opinion climate in which they wish to put out their brand information.


Basen, I. August, 2012. Is that an ad or a news story – and does it matter which?  The Globe and Mail
Retrieved from:

Bull, A. In deference of brand journalism. Retrieved from:

Devorkin, L. October, 2012. Inside Forbes: The birth of brand journalism and why it’s good for the news business. Forbes. Retrieved from:

Gombita, J. July, 2013. Goodbye brand journalism and content marketing…hello DIY corporate media!. PR Conversations. Retrieved from:





Fictitious Project Revision

I am not sure what I am supposed to do with this assignment.  There were no instructor suggestions on what I should change.  As well, there really isnt any more content for me to change anything significantly.  I did everything I set out to do the first time from the map, blog, news on the home page, menu, etc.  If I was  working on this in real life, the next step would be a video.  I would also advise some pictures fropm events the truck is parked at, especially from the colleges.

Portfolio Site

My portfolio site is my actual business website  My company is DBS Entertainment Productions, and I mainly work in video production.  I started out working directly with musicians, then did some video work for them.  When the economy collapsed in 2008, I realized I needed to parlay those video skills into another revenue stream beyond musicians.  Now I work mostly as an independent contractor for Yelp and their advertisers.  While the videos I make largely end up on Yelp, I am allowed to use them on my own website.

I generally let the videos speak for themselves, and do not get too fancy with the aesthetics of the website.  I have seen some interesting templates on that I may be interested in for future reference, similar to what the Groovy Like A Movie company did for their website.  They were one of the companies I chose for the portfolio inspiration assignment.  For now, I am very happy with my site the way it is.  Especially since I had such a hard time getting other people to make a WordPress based site for me prior to finding  I leverage my site by word of mouth, and passing out business cards to develop new clients either outside of Yelp, or as side projects from business owners I meet through the Yelp system.  The videos on my site is the strongest attribute.  I would love to develop my photo section more, but I get hired so much more for video I haven’t been able to justify doing any thing with photos for a while.  I started out with DSLRs that are hybrid cameras which can do both photo and video.  I am at the point now that I have purchased two legit cinema level cameras.  One is the lowest end legit cinema camera on the market, that specializes in low light with a compact form factor -the Sony A7Sii with all the bells and whistles to record uncompressed 4k resolution Apple Pro Res 422.  The other is the RED Scarlet W, which I just finalized the purchase of [costing more than my car].  It is a 5k resolution RAW file output, with complete frame rate control from 1-150fps.  That means I can do super slow-motion, or fast motion like Mad Max Fury Road.

Bottom line, I need to focus on my work product more than getting too fancy with my website for the moment.  My main goals are to upload better and better videos to my site, so I can get better jobs.  At some point down the road I will upgrade the layout of my site to be more like Groovy Like A Movie’s.

The other thing I really need to do is graduate Full Sail so I can add my degree info to my site.  Less than a year left to go.

Diigo Exploration

Diigo Exploration

  1.  17 Point Checklist for Your Freelance Services Website

This article was pretty interesting.  Some of the things related to my business and some do not.  When it said do not use a slider because it won’t be a photo heavy business, that was a red flag.  I am a photo and video heavy business.  Almost all video now.  There were a few other good points like having a contact form instead of just an email address.  I also liked the point about having a branded email address, but I did not really like the suggestion it made for making that happen.  I think there is a way to make a branded email forward to gmail.  I just like the way Gmail functions, and is integrated with Google Drive, etc.  I also liked the suggestion about having two photos of myself.  I need to work on that since I am always the one behind the camera.

2.  8 Common Design Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Also an  interesting article.  The point about symmetry is well taken.  I look at my website and the the symmetrical rows of video players and wonder if is too basic.  Then again, each thumbnail on the video screens themselves are different.  I am interested in professor feedback on this point.  My site is
I also like the point about white space.  I make sure not to clutter my website too much.  I also use this rule when I make closing screens with contact information for my clients.  Font overkill is something I learned to avoid along time ago, and it is nice to have suggestions from articles like this of generally not exceeding two fonts per page.   Also not going crazy with the color changes for contrast is a good rule of thumb as well.

3.  How and Why Icons Improve Your Web Design

I like this article a lot.  Icons can support the text by providing a visual road map for the reader to know where to stop for the information they are looking for.  It supports the text very well that way.  Along with making the page more interesting than having text only.  There was a similar statement in this article to the lesson on writing for the web when that lesson discussed sign posts.  Icons can easily act as such.  It is interesting that this article says very few icons can stand alone, which in general I think is true.  Then at the bottom of the post are icons for social media with no text.  People just know where those icons will take them.  As well, I think the shopping cart icon is pretty self explanatory.