CORPORATE CRIME REPORTER
Philadelphia Inquirer, Citizens Bank Crushes the Illusion of Objectivity
21 Corporate Crime Reporter 18, April 23, 2007
There was a time long ago when reporters sided with the folks on the other side of the tracks.
Because often the reporters themselves were from the other side of the tracks.
When Wall Street stumbled, reporters cheered.
Now, journalists are bought into corporate America.
With pension funds, and real estate, and kids on the Ivy League track.
When Wall Street stumbles, they fret for their collective futures.
It’s rare to get a corporate journalist to even visit the other side.
To admit that the other side exists.
But even with the consolidation of corporate journalism, there still existed an imaginary wall separating the editorial from the advertising side of most corporate newspapers.
It has kept alive in the public mind the illusion of objectivity.
Now, that wall too is crumbling.
Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that the front page of its business section will be sponsored by Citizens Bank.
According to the Inquirer, a Citizens Bank ad will appear across the bottom of the front page of the business section – and another smaller ad in the top corner.
And a front page business column will appear in green – the bank’s color – and will be paid for by the bank.
“In a more unusual arrangement, a Citizens Bank label will run with a new column produced by Inquirer writers and editors,” the Inquirer reported earlier this month. “Some of the revenue from the ads will be used to hire an editor for the column, which will focus on short news items about local, publicly traded companies. The new feature will be boxed in green, Citizens Bank's color.”
Inquirer editor William K. Marimow said Citizens Bank will have no control over the content of the new column.
It will be "100 percent based on our news judgment and prerogatives," Marimow said.
We eagerly await critical reporting from the Inquirer on redlining in Philadelphia.
On the downside of mergers in the banking industry.
On enforcement actions brought against the company or its subsidiaries.
On how big corporations flex their civic muscle by buying naming rights to a new ballpark. It’s not the Philadelphia Phillies ballpark – it’s Citizens Bank Park.
On how bank credit card companies rip off consumers with outrageous fees.
On how bank ATM’s rip off consumers with out-of-network fees.
We won’t hold our breath.
But at least we now can say – no more illusions.
Or as Upton Sinclair put it bluntly in his 1919 classic The Brass Check, “The thesis of this book is that American journalism is a class institution serving the rich and spurning the poor. . .Politics, journalism, and big business work hand in hand for the hoodwinking of the public and the plundering of labor.”
Bought and paid for.
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Washington, D.C. 20045