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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

KRON-TV News Coverage For Sale. Again.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 2:22 PM

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Mother Jones' Michael Mechanic took a swing at KRON-TV (Channel 4) this week over the San Francisco television news station's dubious penchant for airing paid-programming segments that look suspiciously similar to real news coverage.

Mechanic recounts the story of a lawyer friend who was solicited to pay $1,000 to appear as a legal expert on a brief segment that, a station employee assured her, "looks like the news." Among other questionable ethical practices, Mechanic also noted that KRON's 24-minute, call-in health show, Medical Mondays, is paid for by Seton Medical Center -- a fact that is disclosed only in a seven-second disclaimer that precedes the show.

We got in touch with KRON Acting General Manager Brian Greif to see what he made of Mechanic's story. "The material referred to in the article are COMMERCIALS," he wrote back in an e-mail. He added, "These efforts have been in place at KRON for years. They are not new elements and meet all ethical and legal broadcast standards."

We'll grant him part of that. Back in 2006, SF Weekly Managing Editor Will Harper, then a columnist at the East Bay Express, called out KRON for airing travel coverage paid for by Tourism Australia. (The government travel-promotion agency footed the bill for five news employees to travel Down Under. In exchange, puzzled Bay Area viewers were treated to "Australia Week.") Of course, these shows were also identified as paid programming -- in the closing credits.

This is exactly the point, and it's a point Greif misses in his response to Mechanic's story. Disclaimers of for-sale news coverage aside, it's hard not to see commercial programming that looks like the news and is hosted by news anchors as anything other than an effort to mislead viewers. Journalists owe their few remaining patrons better.

Photo   |   Muhammad Adnan Asim.

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