Thursday, April 12, 2007

Free! Take One

There’s always lots of free stuff to read, even if the bulk file on your e-mail isn’t always asking for your attention. It’s easy to subscribe to all kinds of e-newsletters about worthy causes, areas of interest, or from people trying to sell you something. Canada Post dutifully sends you flyers and catalogues. Our public libraries make so much freely available too. You may also have a free local newspaper that arrives at your door. This very blog-site is available to you at absolutely no cost. Why would you ever pay for a book, magazine or newspaper?

Obviously we buy what we believe to be worthwhile, and we invest our time in the worthwhile — whether it costs us money or not. This may include the free newspapers that are often available at your church or Christian bookstore. These papers are a good way to stay current with what’s happening in your Christian community, but they are not all created equal.

Some papers may merely be advertising in disguise. I’m not complaining about the number of ads in each paper, since that’s how they pay the bills and give you a paper free. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with simply being an advertising feature, but as Christians we should be careful to not accidentally deceive readers into thinking otherwise. It is important that if these publications want to appear to be newspapers, they need to maintain journalistic integrity. It is not honest to print glowing articles, or publish the promoter’s press releases as if they were reviews, in exchange for having purchased advertising. To disguise such an advertising feature as a newspaper, aimed at those not savvy enough to know the difference, is wrong.

Newspapers who guard their integrity hire skilled writers — such as many who are members of The Word Guild — to write objective articles. These writers are in no way connected with the advertising department, and feel free to tell you what is good and what is lacking in a book, CD, event, or whatever else is being promoted. The point is not to be negative, but to give readers an honest appraisal of things. If a “newspaper” is not willing to do this, they should make it clear they are simply an advertising feature.

Let’s encourage this kind of integrity, and live up to it ourselves.


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