A brief history of the difference between news and advertising. And why we don’t overlap them.

Going back once again to my days as a young reporter in L.A., I remember the barbed wire fence and machine-gun turrets that separated the advertising salespeople from those of us who comprised the news reporting staff.

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No, of course there was no fence nor mounted guns, but there might as well have been. One of the first rules that was drilled into new reporters was that employees of the advertising and editorial departments shouldn’t comingle, at least professionally.

Pity the poor ad rep who somehow overlooked protocol and ventured into the space inhabited by writers and editors, who presumably had been ordered to shoot to kill, or at least maim, for such ill-advised incursions.

This was why, even though it was advertising dollars that helped keep the presses running, and thus us newsroom types working, that no ad sales personnel dared suggest that a particular client might be doing something newsworthy and therefore deserving of a story.

No, the line between advertising and editorial was drawn, and not ever — EVER — was it to be crossed.

While this unwritten rule seemed a bit excessive to me at the time, I eventually realized that it had a redeeming purpose: By not publishing fluff about an advertiser in our news columns, the newspaper couldn’t be accused of the kind of favoritism that ultimately could undermine readers’ confidence and lead to our diminished credibility as a balanced, unbiased source of news.

Again, it may have seemed a bit extreme at the time—well before the arrival of the curently popularized “fake news” hysteria—but it’s one of the lessons from my early days that has remained with me these many years. It also has provided the basis for a moral template that overlays the way we have done business throughout these nearly three decades.

Fast forward to the changing (read: real) world we live in.

Advertising dollars are not just a way to compensate us for the work we believe in and love: It’s the life’s blood that allows us to keep our doors open. So, in return for the economic advantage we gain from businesses that advertise with us, we try to support them in any way we can: By calling on their expertise when we want a local voice on a subject of wider interest; by writing about the people who make up their workforce, particularly when they have an interesting or worthwhile story to tell; by giving a small edge of priority to them when it comes to deciding what stories will appear in the often-overcrowded pages of an upcoming issue.

Please don’t read something into this explanation that may suggest more than meets the eye.

We never have—and never will—make a coverage decision on the adage “buy an ad and we’ll write a story about you.” Nor do we allow advertisers to dictate what stories we run or what content we include on our pages.

We long ago made a promise to our readers, a pledge that continues today, to retain the independence we have believed in and observed for many years. It’s because we want you to have confidence in what you read in Wrangler News and because it’s vital that you be able to rely on our credibility.

Those early days in the newsroom, mentioned above, are now a distant memory, but they remain a foundation for our promise to you, our readers, that you can count on the kind of trustworthiness that was justified then and that will remain so into the future of Wrangler News—even without the barbed wire fence.

Don Kirkland
Don Kirkland realized in elementary school that his future would revolve around the written word. His first newspaper job was with a small L.A.-area daily whose publisher demanded the kind of journalistic integrity that ultimately led him to be the admired press director for both a governor and a U.S. President. Don later was employed by Times-Mirror Corp. and, in Arizona, was executive editor of the Mesa Tribune after its purchase by a major East Coast chain. He founded Wrangler News 30 years ago and has dedicated his work to preserving the vital role of community newspapers.



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