Foster's, SMG's lack of 'Advertisement' header on 'news story' shows a slippery slope going downhill fast

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Martha T. Soto Galicia ... Rochester Voice president

We at The Rochester Voice feel compelled to call out Seacoast Media Group for their recent publication of a "news story" without a disclaimer denoting it as advertisement.

The story detailing the high quality of back pain treatment care at Portsmouth Regional Hospital that was published March 22 is clearly of an advertorial nature, and while subjectively many may agree that many elements of the story might be true, it is nonetheless an advertisement, not a news story or a feature or an analysis.

That said, this is not an indictment of Portsmouth Regional Hospital which may truly have excellent back pain treatment and surgical expertise.

In fact, there is nothing particularly unusual, or heinous, about a newspaper publishing such articles as long as they print "sponsored material" or "advertisement" above the article.

Many of us have become used to seeing such "news stories" in various publications, albeit with the "advertisement" disclaimer prominently attached.

In this case Seacoast Media Group, of which Foster's Daily Democrat is a part, decided to skip this tried and true method that separates an objectively written news piece from advertising.

By having a staff writer compose the piece with their byline it creates the illusion this is a news story put together by newspaper editors and reporters.

At the end of the article is what appear to be an explanation of its subjectivity, calling it a "collaboration" between the hospital and the Seacoast Media Group. If this was supposed to be some elegant way for the media group to show it's not a news story, well let's just say the coverup is worse than the crime.

To add salt to the wound, hospital ads are displayed throughout the story.

This type of presentation of "advertising" creates a slippery slope that - especially during these days when media outlets are under the gun for creating fake news - has a deleterious effect on the larger newspaper and journalistic community and erodes the public's trust, a trust that is our most important asset.

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