This column appeared today in Mail Today, on Pg 12, titled 'Paid News Breaches The Trust Of Readers' PAID NEWS is deceit. A publication that offers editorial space for sale in a manner that it is meant to look exactly like a news story is not just putting a “For Sale” sign on the sanctum sanctorum of editorial space, but is also peddling our trust. Think about it: the reason any advertiser would want to buy “paid news”, is that there is little that differentiates it as an advertisement from legitimate content. The latter is what we read and trust as an independent effort of a correspondent, and an editor taking a judgment call on what is to be communicated to us, the readers. Paid news, on the other hand, gives you no indication that what you are reading is sponsored content. In newspapers, there is no difference in typeface or background colour to differentiate it from regular news. On television, we rarely see the word "advertisement" on the screen whenever there is a sponsored show that looks like a regular news show. Large media houses have also begun taking equity in firms that don't want to pay by cash – a business model known as “private treaties”. These deals are usually advertising-space-for-equity barters. As media houses are in the business of news, it becomes an open case of conflict of interest when newspapers and television channels become investors in companies that they might report on. Therefore, it comes as…
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