Friday, October 23, 2015

Beware Explorer Readers: Explorer Aligns Reporting With Advertiser Interests

There is a reason that LOVE refers to the Explorer as a "local advertising circular.” It is not because we are jealous of their worth. It is not because we think that our reporting is far better than theirs (which it is!). It is to hammer home the concept of what they are.

The local advertising circular exists to serve its advertisers
It has been our observation that some in Oro Valley give too much credibility to the importance of the local advertising circular. It is as though they think that what is "reported" in the local advertising circular is real reporting and that it is fair. For some reason, some people even get “giddy’ when the local advertising circular publishes their letter.

Read this. It was written by Mark B Evans, the editor of “Inside Tucson Business.” He who chose unemployment over working for the owners of the Explorer.
"Shortly after Randy Miller, the owner of 13th Street Media, took over at the Explorer [2007] he handed out a "Manager's Guide" that spelled out what the newspaper was about. It's only about 12 pages long, but it's clear that the company was an advertising delivery firm, not a news provider.“
The “Manager’s Guide” states:
  • Our customer is the advertiser. Readers are our customers’ customers. 
  • If our content is truly reflecting our community, the advertisers’ interests and our content will closely align. 
  • We operate with a lean core of newsroom staff and contributors and wire services for efficiency. Staffing levels should be as high as possible in sales and as low as possible in all other areas 
  • Longevity provides a stronger image with the community 
  • Sales are the lifeblood of the company. Sales calls are the primary contributing factor toward sales, so it is clear that the top priority at all of our newspapers is the sales department 
The local advertising circular readers are sorely wrong if think that they get a fair and balanced news report.

The Town Of Oro Valley is a major customer of the local advertising circular
The Town Of Oro Valley has a 2015-16 advertising agreement with the local advertising circular. The agreement calls for the town to pay a bit less than $24,000:

Item Cost Number Total
1/4 Horizontal Page Ads $    600.60     17 $10,210.20
Holiday 3 Page Spread    1,327.50      4     5,310.00
Sponsor Banner In Discover Magazine       839.00 Various        839.00
Your Voice/Our Future    7,591.00 Various     7,591.00
Assuming that the local advertising circular follows its own rules, it would be against their policy  to publish anything that does not promote the interest of the Town of Oro Valley.

Two examples of bias
It is our opinion that reporting by the local advertising circular of town matters lacks critical thinking. In addition, one could reasonably conclude that a policy of maintaining a lean reporting staff, as stated in the manager's guide, would preclude reporters from having sufficient time to critically assess their work. Editorials by the local advertising circular generally slant for the town or business interests. See, for example, a recent publisher's opinion piece chastising the Oro Valley election challengers for not appearing at the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce forum on the basis that the chamber is important to the community.

Another example was published in this Wednesday's local advertising circular. The item is a one sided report on a shoving scuffle that occurred in June. It was between a local resident who supports removing the recalled council members and Lou Waters. LOVE reported the incident.

It is: "Much Ado About Nothing." You can watch the video of this incident.

The article ignores the facts. It presents Waters' side only. It does not discuss the views of the local resident. This is simply no balanced reporting.

Remember, this is the same organization that ran a "Recall Zinkin Ad" next to a posting by Mike Zinkin on why he should not be recalled
We will never forget that the local advertising circular did this to Council Member Zinkin: They ran an article calling for Zinkin's recall next to an article that Mike had written on why he should remain on council. That action, done under previous editor Thelma Grimes, not only showed poor judgment, but it showed support of the established town leadership at a time when the local advertising circular had no basis for showing such support. In the end, the recall effort failed because the organizers could not get enough signatures to put a recall on the ballot.

The local advertising circular is not friend of the people. Its not even reliable reporting. By their own policy, their reporting is slanted to support their advertisers.
We have not seen nor do we foresee a change in the philosophy of the local advertising circular on the part of the new editor. We doubt the that he would change the local advertising circular business model.

In fact, his support of such is probably why he got the job in the first place.

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