A WATCH Camas forum member recently made a post highlighting an alleged lack of integrity with a local news source. That member cited specific examples of a potentially transactional relationship with advertisers and local politicians taken directly from the website in question. WATCH Camas has now received a news tip of a similar issue regarding a muddy citation of author and an unclear disclosure of potentially sponsored content from the same outlet featured in that member's recent story.
In a recent post from the Lacamas blog, readers may notice that the content is structured similarly to a marketing email they might receive from a real estate agent. At the bottom of the page the cited author is the same as it is on every post the blog makes, "Ernest Geigenmiller" (by comparison, WATCH Camas story authors are featured before stories to give readers the proper context for what's to follow). The title of the Lacamas blog article is,
"THE STATE OF CLARK COUNTY’S HOUSING MARKET: IS IT BOOM OR BUST?"
That title might suggest that the blog's author has interviewed multiple people that believe we are facing either a boom or a bust real estate market locally. A reader might expect that he's giving each of them a platform to lay out distinct competing arguments so that readers can ultimately decide for themselves. But then it becomes clear that all of the post's photography features photos of a single vibrant woman standing in front of an ominously empty downtown Camas with a large smile on her face.
It's not stated in the article, but If a reader wanted to, they could easily find out that this woman, Louise James, is a realtor at the RE/MAX Equity Group, a regular sponsor of the Lacamas blog. Their ad sits on the sidebar of all recent blog posts on that website. (screenshot to the left)
If a reader does reach the bottom of the article, a single line reads, "Written by Louise James". Not realtor, not RE/MAX realtor, just "Written by Louise James" - and not in the regular spot on the page for author citation. That's repeated in other spots as well.
A reader may have come to this recent article from the Lacamas blog having heard other relevant, accurate news from the same outlet about an everyday, non-controversial Camas event - say a Camas HS football team or a local pie bake-off. Because of that, they may have a built up trust over time and think what they are consuming is journalism in kind. They may never suspect that it's instead the written opinion of a paying realtor who's future livelihood specifically depends on a reader believing the premise of the story nay advertisement being presented here as news. Setting an expectation with past actions and then slipping in something quietly different might be seen as an abuse of trust by some, especially as we're seeing through citizen reports that this is not an isolated incident by any means. Tread lightly and check your sources Camas.
And here's something from the FTC on the dangers of undisclosed sponsored content. WATCH Camas encourages you to share this article out with a few friends today as it's always good to get a clear reminder of the evolving reality we navigate each day online. Here's a shareable video as well: https://vimeo.com/352067326
Update: And here's another featured news story from the Lacamas Blog Facebook feed. This was posted about 10 days after Louise's "feature" mentioned in the post above.