Is This What Free News Sites Gets Us?

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Does this article on titanium necklaces worn by professional baseball players from my local paper’s site read like an advertisement to anyone but me? The article describes the necklaces as something that “might help [ballplayers] relax and perform better” or they “might just be a trendy fashion statement” which sounds a bit skeptical, but the “reporter” then goes on to say:

If the players believe the necklaces give them energy or help their muscles recover quicker, then maybe that’s enough.

Of course, what really makes this read like a commercial is the the quote from the company spokesman Joseph Valdez describing the $36 necklaces:

There’s not an official claim that it’s going to do A, B, or C; however, every product is going to effect the body differently depending on the player. To be honest a lot of major league baseball players wear them because it’s kind of the new bling.

Yeah, because if I was a major league baseball player, I’d go to a $36 necklace for the bling factor. Valdez goes on to explain that several players are paid to endorse the company’s products, which I am betting is a stronger influence than the bling factor.

Listen, I want our local news to succeed as much as the next person, but there has got to be a better way. When I go to the paper’s website, I click on the ads to support the paper. I wouldn’t mind paying a subscription fee, honestly; I get my news online because I don’t want the paper piling up around my house, not because I don’t want to pay for it. But, that is obviously a model that isn’t working for most online news sites. There has to be something else we can do besides disguising advertisements as articles, though. That just lowers the trust that readers have in the “news” provided by the site.

I don’t have a good answer here. I know that this is something that the newspaper industry has been struggling with for some time now. But if we want to keep our local communities strong, we can’t let the news default to a few larger players like MSNBC or CNN that can get the big advertising money. We need a vibrant press community with reporters from all over the country. But they can’t do it without our support–and bloggers will only take us so far.

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