ECT contributor: I have been reading newspapers as well as have been in marketing and sales for the past 30 years. I think I know the difference between the style of writing that is considered news and that which is straight PR. I read the Childbirth 101 article on the front page of your (Fishwrap) High Life Health section on Tuesday, September 3rd. While the Vail Valley Medical Center (Vail Hospital) paid for ads at the top and bottom of the page, did they also pay the Vail Daily to run that story too? Their Editor’s Note indicates that the story first ran in the Vail Health Magazine. In looking at the Vail Health Magazine’s masthead, the publisher is Lindsay Warner. According to the VVMC’s website, she is the Communications Manager for VVMC. The Vail Health Magazine is published by the hospital as a PR piece for to promote the Vail hospital’s image. The Editor’s Note should have included the information that the story was bought and paid for by the hospital. It didn’t. It’s in VVMC’s best interest to direct as many patients (with insurance?) as possible to their facility – without their patients or the community asking any real questions about the rates charged by the hospital – which would be a real news story if it were ever investigated. What is the Vail Valley Medical Center doing, as a “non profit, community hospital”, to make health care more affordable for the residents of Eagle County? Based on their charges which are (often) 5 – 10 times more than other medical facilities in Colorado, arguably VVMC is doing little cost control for our community and is being run exactly like a for profit corporation when you look at their financials (see below).
The Fishwrap’s Advertorial trend has also spilled over to the Letters to the Editors page. Has this page now turned into a ‘Angie’s List’ with reviews of contractors? A letter from Donna Griffin was published on Sept 4th extolling the virtues of her remodeling contractor, HMR. She was so happy with their work that she included their phone number in her letter. Did HMR pay for this advertisement?
Over the past few years, it appears that the Vail Daily has been hungry for free editorial content to go between their paid ads. The past two days have tilted the scales while the Vail Daily has gone from being a newspaper to an unabashed advertising circular.
There is no longer any “line” between the Fishwrap’s editorial and advertising content.