Weeks after running a story about Montana towns that was little more than a plagiarized collection of Wikipedia stories, the Missoulian today ran a “story” that’s nothing more than a newsvertisement for an online company called Find the Home.
The piece in the Missoulian begins like this:
Everyone knows that America doesn’t run on patriotism and hard work — it runs on caffeine. When Starbucks baristas spell your name wrong, it’s a harbinger of bad luck for the rest of your day; if your hands and mouth don’t suffer from spilled-coffee burns on a weekly basis, you’re not doing it right.
That same hot lede (before the link to Find the Home) appeared in dozens, if not hundreds, of news outlets across the country in the past week, including such journalistic stalwarts as the Dallas Sun Times, WRTV Indianapolis, and the Billings Gazette.
It’s not uncommon in these seemingly desperate times to see news outlets run content that is sponsored by advertisers and not written by their own staff. It is, however, pretty troubling to see a newspaper run sponsored content without even acknowledging what is it with a disclaimer.
Newspapers can lose staff and survive, somehow. They can lose coverage of their community and state and survive. But when their credibility vanishes, can they last?