The idea for this week’s issue came about during a meeting of this newspaper’s general manager, John Murphy, Sam Shad and myself.
Sam was talking about advertising in the paper, some kind of synergistic trade effort between our news section, Food Finds section and his shows, Nevada Newsmakers and Best of Reno. I’ve never been invited to this sort of meeting before, and I felt a little weird just sitting there. We here at the RN&R have a pretty clear knowledge of where ethical lines should be drawn. On the other hand, nearly every story that comes across my desk has a benefactor at either the beginning or the end, so I know that good stories often come from conflicted places.
So when Sam said, “I don’t care what you say about me, just write about me,” I had a tiny moment of revelation. Sam’s story is a good one, and there are a lot of things about his projects that are newsworthy. For example, I’m sure there has never been a commercially viable local politics show before his. But now, I’m conflicted. How do we tell Sam Shad’s story without crossing the lines between advertising and editorial?
Well, I decided at that moment to embrace the concept. We’d do puff pieces about advertisers, just as, we often point out, other media do. We’d run some pieces with balance, because that’s how some other news outlets preserve their appearance of objectivity and their credibility. And to keep it interesting, we’d tell one or two stories that have absolutely no connection to the ad department. In short, we’d become what we disdain to prove a point and hopefully to raise our readers’ awareness that when they are watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading a newspaper (even ours), there is stuff going on beneath the surface.
So, please, consider this a challenge and a game: read this week’s issue and see if you can tell who’s an advertiser getting a pass, which stories weren’t affected by the issue’s concept and where the subtle ironies are. You know where you’ll find me: 324-4440 ext. 3525.