News for Profit

Monitor the business of media
  • Class project: Who owns your media? Make a list of the top news organizations in your area? Find out who owns them. (Was it easy or difficult to find out that information?) Do the owners of the media also own other businesses? Do the owners have political connections? Do you think who owns the media influences news coverage?

  • Student exercise: ADD MUSIC EXERCISE

  • Class discussion: Is news free? Online news often seems to be free (even if you have to pay to get online) and you can often pick up a free newspaper in many cities. How do media support their reporting of the news? What is the difference between media that support themselves mostly through advertising and media that rely mostly on having their audience pay?

  • Class project: Take a look at a local news outlet that has had to lay off part of its news staff: reporters, editors, producers, camerapeople, researchers, etc. Why has the news organization have to cut staff? What kinds of jobs have been cut? What types of news is no longer being covered by staff? Is that news being covered in any other way? You might want to invite a journalist/editor/producer from that organization to come to discuss this to your class.

  • Role-play exercise: Should there be a divide between advertising and editorial. Consider that the students in the class are all editors at a local newspaper or radio or television station. Several of the news outlet’s reporters have researched and written a terrific investigative story on what appears to be a corrupt local businessman. The facts in the story have been checked and rechecked. Multiple sources have confirmed all the allegations that are made by your reporters—that the businessman, who owns both the local bus company and the local food market chain, has been over a period of years grossly overcharging the public for food and transportation, and publicly lying saying that he has only been passing on the costs of higher gas prices and food costs. Instead, he has been personally pocketing the difference—in fact the reason why this story came to your news outlet’s attention is because the businessman and his wife and children have long been known for their extravagant lifestyle—travel out of the country, new cars, fancy clothes, fine house, etc..

Here’s the problem: the bus company and the food chain are two of your news outlet’s major advertisers. You the editors are now told by your advertising department (which was unaware that this story was being written) that the department is certain that if the news outlet publishes or airs this story, the bus and food companies’ managers will pull all their advertising. If those advertising accounts go away, your editors/producers are now told, your news outlet will likely have to fire some of its staff because it will not have enough income to pay them.
➢ What do you do as editors/producers? Do you run the story?

  1.     What are the reasons to run the story? What are the reasons not to run the story?

➢ Once you make your decision what to do, you as editors all get back together and talk about the lessons you have learned from this incident.

  1. What do you decide you will do in the future?
  2. Will you keep your reporting separate from your advertising?
  3. Will you have them in communication from the beginning?
  4. How can your news organization become less dependent on  advertising from just a few major companies?
  5. What other business models (beyond advertising) could you identify that might help make your business less dependent on advertising?
  6. What do you tell your readers?