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Should Radio News People Read Commercial Copy?

RTDNA’s Mark Willis has a few things to say

Should radio news anchors be allowed to endorse a product or voice spot copy? Is there a trend of this happening?

According to Mark Willis, writing on the blog of the Radio TV Digital News Association, more anchors have taken to endorsing commercial products on the air during their allotted news slots. On the RTDNA’s Communicator website, Willis penned a warning message to stations and staff who mix journalism with marketing.

“A reporter should deliver the news, not discuss how to get rid of chronic heel pain,” he wrote. The issues at stake are credibility, objectivity and believability. There is a reputation of trust that is built among listeners and this activity will dismantle it “brick by brick,” he said.

“The sales staff may be excited because ‘Bob, the morning anchor’ just endorsed the local Honda dealership in a commercial. But is ‘Bob’ believable when he does a story about a GM recall? By the way, ‘Bob the morning anchor’ also gets to drive a Honda in exchange for his endorsement. I know of a station where that is actually happening.”

Willis closes by asking readers to respond with their thoughts on the topic, promising a followup.

Some reactions from readers state this practice is not new at all. According to one poster, “This practice is decades old if you review your broadcast history. Today we routinely see and hear news anchors originate broadcasts from sites that are strictly commercial enterprises,” citing reports made from a state fair or news reports of consumers lining up out in the streets to buy the newest iPhone. It’s unclear that Willis meant to include such examples of soft news coverage in his observations regarding formal endorsements and voicing ad copy.