Is journalism influenced by advertising revenue?

Have you heard about The Emily Program? It’s a great company that helps with eating disorders for both adolescents and adults.

From the their website:

1. Who is Emily?

She’s both a real person and a philosophy. When Dirk Miller opened his new clinic for people with eating disorders, he named it for his sister, Emily, who had recovered from an eating disorder.

Through the years, that name has come to signify personalized care for all individuals struggling with eating disorders – the hallmark of The Emily Program. Members of our treatment team develop a personal connection with clients.

This connection is often the start of long-term relationships, because eating disorders tend to be difficult, long-term illnesses by their very nature. Strengthening this connection is The Emily Program staff’s unparalleled commitment. We help clients heal, and we do much more. We work hard to prevent eating disorders by promoting awareness of their causes and their effects on families and every one of our communities.

Our staff has extensive experience in the field. Several also have a personal experience with recovery.

“We think like people with eating disorders think,” says Miller. “We ‘are’ our clients… we know the changes people need to make to live through patterns of thoughts and feelings.

There has been a considerable amount of media related to the program over the last few weeks as they attempted to convert a long vacant school into a ten bedroom health facility in Orono. Seems simple enough, until the nighbors decided they didn’t want to facility in town due to “increased traffic” concerns.

One of the most vocal opponents and certainly one of the most influential was Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel Strib reports

Steinhafel, in comments at a Feb. 22 City Council meeting, said, “We strongly believe that Emily’s Program has no place at the Hill School location.”

And while Target has tried to distance itself from the conflict by releasing a statement saying they are not involved some are claiming it may not be that simple.

The Emily Programs has pulled it’s application and opted to fight no further against the Orono residents, but one commenter in this editorial,

In the face of opposition, the Emily Program opts to move on., has a lot to say about the Star Tribune’s treatment of this story.

posted by gollyg on Mar 19, 10 at 11:26

What gives, Star Trib?
There have been FOUR stories written on this subject in the past few weeks and all of them had lively and informative discussions in the comments section. ALL of the stories have had the comment sections removed without cause or explanation – the latest one being written just a couple of days ago, with over 60 comments posted. (One from a couple of weeks ago had over 200 comments.) At one point, people even asked if a rep from the Star Trib could explain why these comment sections were being removed, but there has been no response. I have read all the comments and except for a select few – and I mean FEW (which were rightfully deleted) – there wasn’t anything in the comments to warrant the removal of the entire section. The Star Trib is certainly giving the impression that it is willing to censor and/or delete comments that might be seen as unfavorable towards the CEO of one of their large advertisers. I was trying so hard not to believe that and to give the paper the benefit of the doubt, but doubt has now been erased from my mind. After having four stories written and four comment sections removed (why offer a comment section if you’re unwilling to allow people to speak their minds, by the way?), it is clear to me that indeed, the Star Trib IS reacting to some sort of pressure from its advertiser. How sad. For the paper – to give in to such strong-arm tactics; for the advertiser – to be so thin-skinned against a few comments on a website; for the reader – who is of the belief that they have a forum whereby they can exchange opinions with one another and in the process learn to consider other viewpoints, maybe even sharing their own personal stories in an attempt to help others take a second look at their OWN way of thinking….only to have those comments removed – over and over and over again. This paper has struggled in this economy and has been asking for customers to support and stand by them. How can we do that when the paper itself won’t even allow us a voice? I guess the only way I have left to be heard is with my dollars…the ones I’ll be taking with me when I cancel my subscription to the paper.

This is not only one person’s opinion, I have heard similar complaints made against the Star Tribune early on with the Denny Hecker situation, at the time he was a heavy advertiser in the paper.

It’s a shame that the people of Orono fought this facility, but the Emily Program will find another home. Still, one has to wonder if this is a situation where the news is teeting awefully close to the line that separates reporting the news to becoming the news.

What do you think, are newspapers and/or media outlets more beholden to their advertisers than their journalistic ethics? Can a comment section be considered part of an article? If no, then why have them? If yes, then why censor things that are within the usage guidlines?



2 Comments so far

  1. Erica M (ericam) on March 19th, 2010 @ 11:47 am

    I’m more concerned about whether the fact that this guy happens to be the CEO of Target gives him more sway than any other objector.

    I don’t know how much this is related to the STrib’s relationship with their advertisers, but it’s certainly indicative of the fact that they’re still floundering with their comment policy.

  2. David (jacc) on March 19th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    Another comment in this story

    Oh, Come On, STrib Monitors
    Why on earth do you have comments open on this? Do you want the page to fill up with racist “hang ’em high” troll-spurt?
    But the other day you wiped the comments that were running 20:1 against Gregg Steinhafel? You wiped comments from Healthcare Bill stories that compared Healthcare costs to other costs like military, Wall Street bailouts, and prisons? You wiped comments complaining about federal prosecutors over-charging suspects and intimidating supposed witnesses?
    But for this story, you leave comments open. Boy, oh boy. Would you guys please publish your real “terms of use?”


    That said, I totally agree with your assessment of a CEO of a company having so much pull at a town meeting.

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