Here’s bad news if you want to be able to trust what you read in the newspaper.
Unilever – the manufacturer behind low-fat margarine among other things – now announces that they have started a “partnership” with major British newspaper The Guardian. The idea is that Unilever pays the newspaper a lot of money (a 7-digit number). Apart from that the partnership is based on…
…shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling.
What do these fine words mean? I recommend the entertaining analysis by Andrew Sullivan. The fine language is called “bullshit”, used to cover up the truth. What it’s really about – not surprisingly – is to disguise the industry’s propaganda so that it will look like independent journalism and become more efficient.
It’s very simple. Newspapers are having trouble finding sources of income. Unilever wants a credible platform for their advertising, where it looks like journalism. Win-win. Except for the readers, who will find it increasingly difficult to know what is news and what is advertising.
Just an example: Why spend money on TV commercials for low-fat margarine when planted newspaper articles about how “harmful” natural fats, such as butter, are a lot more effective?
In Sweden Unilever has been found in violation of the law several times for such disguised advertisements for margarine. Now the UK risks seeing the same thing happen at a totally new scale.