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Society of Professional Journalists criticizes radio station’s sale of naming rights

For Immediate Release

David Carlson, President, (352) 846-0171 or carlson@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists urges Clear Channel radio group to stop allowing its stations to sell naming rights to their newsrooms. WIBA, a Clear Channel radio station in Madison, Wis., sold the naming rights for its newsroom to a local bank.

“The only thing a news organization has is its credibility,” said David Carlson, SPJ president. “When that’s lost, listeners, viewers and readers will not be far behind.

“Does it sound credible to introduce a news report with “Here’s Jennifer Miller from the Battz Beer News Center?”

WIBA did not sell its naming rights to a beer company. It sold them to a bank. “But does it really sound any more credible to say, ‘From the Amcore Bank News Center, here’s Jennifer Miller?’” Carlson asked.

“As a news consumer in Madison, it would make me wonder just where my news is coming from. Is the bank writing the news, or is the radio station? Is the newsroom in the bank or at the station?

“And what can Madison residents expect,” Carlson asked, “when news breaks at Amcore Bank? Will they get the same level of reporting they would get if the story were at another financial institution? Even if they do, how can they help but wonder?”

Carlson, who also is the Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of new media journalism at the University of Florida, said SPJ believes selling naming rights for a news organization is a dangerous precedent. But it is not unprecedented. From 1948 to 1956, the NBC Nightly News was called the “Camel News Caravan.”

“It was a bad idea then, and it’s a bad idea now,” Carlson said. “Perhaps that’s why it’s been 49 years since NBC quit the practice.”

“We urge Clear Channel to rethink this policy,” Carlson said.

The Society of Professional Journalists works to improve and protect journalism. The organization is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

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