Friday, December 11, 2009

Ski country reporter's firing ignites debate about advertising's role in editorial decisions

The relationship between news, commentary and advertising, usually closer at smaller news outlets, is the focus of a controversy over the firing of a Colorado reporter who criticized a local ski resort that then pulled its ads from the Summit Daily News. Susan Green, a columnist for The Denver Post, writes that the reporter, Bob Berwyn, was fired because his Nov. 19 column led Vail Resorts to stop advertising in the paper. Jim Morgan, publisher of the Daily News, responded in a column that "circumstances symptomatic of a pattern of behavior documented in reviews over the course of time" were responsible for the decision. (Vail Resorts photo by Jack Affleck)

Berwyn's column alleged that ski resorts intentionally misconstrue weather reports as marketing gimmicks. The column didn't mention Vail Resorts by name, but referred to a Twitter post by an unnamed top resort executive displaying snow on his front porch. Rob Katz, the company's chief executive officer, has since explained that the tweet was his, but argued that none of the resorts were open at the time, so he wasn't suggesting snow was on the slopes. Berwyn told the Post that Katz called immediately to complain, and publisher Morgan told him he "had a lot of groveling to do." After standing by his column, Berwyn says he was fired two weeks later. Katz says the company only pulled its advertising after news of his discussions with Berwyn and Morgan, about not being contacted for the column, were made public.

"It's unfortunate but, especially in this economy, some advertisers feel like they can flex their muscles when there's commentary that they don't like," Ed Otte of the Colorado Press Association told the Post. "Newspapers need to withstand these kinds of threats." In his response column, Morgan wrote that the newspaper doesn't discuss personnel matters, but said he should have spoken to the Post off the record to provide more insight.

1 comment:

Old Scout said...

This is a good example that disproves the charge from republicans that we have a liberal press.

We do have a biased press that is working overtime (pun intended) to undo the imagined damage done to enterprise by our crusading, muckraking liberal press.

As soon as we have a shield law, we can once again have a free press that is either liberal or reactionary - but still free.

We won't have a meaningful First Amendment until we have a shield law. State & Federal shield laws are absolutely necessary to an informed electorate and a choice oriented political, social, financial and economic system.