What?! A reporter has to hang out with a chef in his or her kitchen and then “put together an article on the experience” for an advertorial?
I called Cape Gazette editor and co-owner Trish Vernon to find out more.
“The woman who does this is a freelancer — she’s not one of our staff reporters,” says Vernon. The ad is “written as a news story but as far as it’s presented in the paper, it’s not in the same typeface as our news stories.”
The 13,000-circulation, twice-weekly paper has seven reporters, says the editor, and they’re not expected to do the advertorials. Vernon says she doesn’t know how many advertisers have taken advantage of the offer. “I’m not on that side of the business.”
UPDATE: Cape Gazette news editor Laura Ritter sends this email:
I know you called Trish Vernon to ask her directly about a Cape Gazette promotion, but as she told you, she is not involved in it and was not aware of the post on our website promoting it, written by one of our advertising reps. The problem is really with the wording of the promotion, which is erroneous.
The Fresh Sheet is an idea pitched by the woman who is going to write the advertising copy; she asked our ad staff to consider it, and the ad staff agreed to try it. She is a freelance writer. This is not an assignment at all, let alone the worst assignment ever. Our promo should have called the page a paid advertisement, not a feature. When it runs in the paper, it will be clearly marked “Paid advertisement” at the bottom, and there is a second disclaimer at the top. Our error was in the wording of the promo, not in the ads, which have not yet been published.
The Cape Gazette is vigilant when it comes to maintaining a clear distinction between ads and stories; any ad that could look like a news story is required to use fonts that are distinct from our copy and must prominently carry the words “Paid Advertisement.” When this new ad appears in our paper, I am confident readers will have no confusion that it is anything other than a paid ad.
I suggest those who can’t wait to slam the Cape Gazette on your blog wait until they see the ad in the paper and judge for themselves whether there is any confusion.
Thanks for raising these issues; we are in full agreement that there should be a bright line of distinction between advertisement and news.