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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Blurred lines?

Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Brian Pallister had some fun doling out tongue-in-cheek gifts to the NDP before Christmas.
But Pallister’s huge present came from the people of Manitoba in a Probe Research/         Winnipeg Free Press poll released on Thursday.
The Free Press story said Pallister’s Tories have the backing of four out of 10 decided         voters, up four points from the last poll in        September, to 41 per cent support.
That increase has come at the expense of  Premier Greg Selinger’s New Democrats, who have slipped to 29 per cent — down from 36 per cent in September.
As the Freep noted, the walls of Fortress      Winnipeg appear to be crumbling as the New Democrats are losing support in Winnipeg-held ridings and among women — two key areas of support that have kept the party in power since 1999.
And if the Pallister PCs keep on having some creative photo ops such as this one — even if it’s a bit obscure — can only help the party: 
Jelly Salad — From those who make things at home for fall suppers, but can’t gift them.

SUBMITTED Enlarge Image

Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader Brian Pallister had some fun doling out tongue-in-cheek gifts to the NDP before Christmas. But Pallister’s huge present came from the people of Manitoba in a Probe Research/ Winnipeg Free Press poll released on Thursday. The Free Press story said Pallister’s Tories have the backing of four out of 10 decided voters, up four points from the last poll in September, to 41 per cent support. That increase has come at the expense of Premier Greg Selinger’s New Democrats, who have slipped to 29 per cent — down from 36 per cent in September. As the Freep noted, the walls of Fortress Winnipeg appear to be crumbling as the New Democrats are losing support in Winnipeg-held ridings and among women — two key areas of support that have kept the party in power since 1999. And if the Pallister PCs keep on having some creative photo ops such as this one — even if it’s a bit obscure — can only help the party: Jelly Salad — From those who make things at home for fall suppers, but can’t gift them.

It’s an age-old tradition.

Horse — From a $50-million per-year industry that employs 500 Manitobans.

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Horse — From a $50-million per-year industry that employs 500 Manitobans. (SUBMITTED)

Puppet — From civil servants who don’t want to be used as puppets by the NDP.

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Puppet — From civil servants who don’t want to be used as puppets by the NDP. (SUBMITTED)

Even more than a tradition, the separation between a mainstream media’s newsroom and advertising department is an ethical cornerstone that has helped print and electronic media earn trust with readers and viewers over the decades.

In the modern media era, maintaining that firewall between the advertising department — which brings in the lifeblood of revenue in the form of ads — and the news department is even more critical. There are so many other sources of information, many of which blur the line between editorial and advertorial.

Some publications use advertisements featuring a lot of the bells and whistles of a news story, but with no disclaimer stating it’s an "Advertorial." That’s just unethical.

Readers need to be assured they are being presented with unadulterated information gathered by trained and tested news and sports reporters that isn’t influenced by outside sources such as advertisers.

There would be no mainstream media outlets — print or online — without advertisers. And that would mean the websites that suck the information from the mainstream media — News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch blasted aggregators for "feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others" — would also have no hard news to base their blogs or chat sites on.

Mainstream media outlets such as the Sun need advertising revenue to pay the salaries of these professional reporters. We need advertising income to help pay for the high-end computer systems and photo equipment.

The money you pay for subscriptions to the print edition of a newspaper such as the Brandon Sun basically covers the cost of getting the papers to your door each morning (and early in the morning at that).

And as you will read in a story elsewhere in today’s edition, brandonsun.com — our Internet portal — is a very popular news source. And that even with a paywall in place for unique, local copy that appears in our print edition (subscribers receive a password to get behind the paywall).

Advertising revenue on our website is definitely an area of growth for us. But I digress.

The print and flyer advertising revenue at a place such as the Brandon Sun is crucial to our success now, and into the future.

In addition to paying for the expenses of the editorial department, it provides revenue to our parent company, FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership, which also owns the Winnipeg Free Press, Canstar Community News, The Carillon in Steinbach and the News-Express in Carberry.

While some mainstream newspapers in North America have suffered from plunging ad revenues and circulation, the Brandon Sun is in a slightly different world in Westman. We are holding our own, quite nicely, thank you.

But that’s not to say we haven’t had a few bumps in recent years as the economy slipped and tripped for a while.

However, here we are looking at celebrating our 132nd year of continuous publication next month. And I’m pretty sure if we didn’t offer a dependable, reliable and readable product, people would simply ignore us.

And a lot of that trust we have developed with readers has to be credited to the strict adherence to the many ethical guidelines our journalists follow each day as they work to craft their articles.

And a key ethical consideration — that over the decades has led to some pretty heated debates in the boardroom at times between sales managers and editors, especially when a key advertiser is facing a negative news story or a lawsuit — is to make sure readers know what is an ad and what is news, entertainment or sports copy.

Now to show the news department’s independence, we do run news stories and columns that are critical of capitalism.

Recently, we ran a Zack Gross column on Buy Nothing Day and we just published an opinion piece by Neelin High School student Elena Klippenstein entitled "Consumers Or Consumerism" that contained the line: "The main goal of advertising is to make people discontent with what they already have, and make them feel that their life would be much improved with the possession of something better."

So here at the Sun, we obviously have things pretty well worked out. We don’t muzzle the anti-corporate, anti-consumerism crowd. But we also don’t allow people hiding behind fake names to take unsubstantiated shots at local businesses as you’ll find on the Internet.

Our special editions — on topics such as bridal, homes and gardens, business trends and Christmas gift ideas — are generally written by freelance writers and are labelled on the front page "A Brandon Sun Special Supplement." The fonts for the body copy and headlines are different than what are used in the regular newspaper.

At this media outlet, the managing editor is also the special supplement manager. This ensures freelancers are hired and assigned and that the copy and photos get in on deadline for the copy editors in the newsroom to put on the pages.

And when I give the freelance writer story outlines, I also supply him or her with a number of contacts to call for comment to make the story local and to provide information to readers.

Some publications don’t do this and just run free stories that are supplied by syndicates that insert quotes from national corporations that pay for such exposure.

At the Sun, we also have access to The Canadian Press wire service that offers informative articles that are editorially independent from corporation influence, but that do obviously quote owners and managers of various commercial entities.

When I assign a freelance writer the stories for supplements — let’s say it’s on the Career Symposium or the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair — I give the writer names of some of the advertisers who will be in the publication.

Why would we interview and quote a company whose ad isn’t featured in the supplement? We choose to give our clients added exposure — at random, depending on when the first ads come in — as they are willing to also support us.

So is that unethical? I don’t think so. We’re not using staff news reporters and I’m the one assigning the supplement writers.

The information provided is useful to people interested in the event or topic in the supplement.

Then there are the "wraps," when an advertiser — such as Kullberg’s did twice this week — purchases the front and back pages and the inside of those pages, making for a mini-supplement that contains the regular paper.

While we use a similar masthead above the ad on those wraps, it’s pretty clear that it is an advertisement as the regular front page is presented inside.

I have another example of how that ethical guideline is so carefully followed. Or when it’s bent just a tad.

When the lines get a little blurred, even here.

Each year we do a story about the Boxing Day sales phenomenon which appears to be showing few signs of slowing down in these parts.

So again, when faced with literally dozens of stores we could do stories on, why not choose ones that have advertised with us for the event?

While a place such as Extreme Electronics is a no-brainer — we’ve covered pre-dawn lineups at that address for years, even when it was Visions Electronics — what other merchants should our team drop in on?

When assigning the story — I was filling in for our city editor, who was off for Christmas — I asked the reporter to flip through recent papers and flyers to see which store had some interesting Boxing Day offers.

I told her to avoid going to retailers who hadn’t advertised with us — and those are in a very small minority in town.

One place I pointed out was The Little Shoppe, which was having a

50 per cent off sale. I thought that was pretty cool and it was also a store I can’t recall us covering in previous Boxing Day stories.

We ended up getting a pretty decent photo to accompany the story.

So was that unethical of me?

If we’re doing a Boxing Day story, why not drop in on people who are supporting this business?

And if a staff reporter is looking for places to go anyway, is it ethically imprudent of me to suggest interviewing shoppers at merchants who spend money with us?

I don’t think so. But I’ll leave it for you to judge.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 28, 2013

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It’s an age-old tradition.

Even more than a tradition, the separation between a mainstream media’s newsroom and advertising department is an ethical cornerstone that has helped print and electronic media earn trust with readers and viewers over the decades.

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It’s an age-old tradition.

Even more than a tradition, the separation between a mainstream media’s newsroom and advertising department is an ethical cornerstone that has helped print and electronic media earn trust with readers and viewers over the decades.

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