Newspaper Sells Ads to Universities for Positive Coverage

April 1, 2013

The Orange County Register is selling three universities ads that will appear in special weekly sections that will contain "positive" news about the institutions, The Los Angeles Times reported. A memo from an administrator at the University of California at Irvine -- one of the participating universities -- said that its public relations staff would serve as "content advisors, idea generators and collaborators" on the project. The participating institutions, in addition to Irvine, are Chapman University and California State University at Fullerton. Each will pay $275,000. Register officials said that they would still make final decisions on content, and that the news pages would not be affected by the pledges about the kind of content to appear in these special sections.

Jeffrey Brody, a professor of communications at Fullerton and a former Register reporter, said that the new approach would be "wonderful for the universities," but he questioned whether this was appropriate for a newspaper. "If publishing the sections is dependent upon advertising revenue from the universities, then the Register might as well call itself a newsletter rather than a newspaper.... If this is the way Publisher [Aaron] Kushner intends to revitalize the newspaper industry, he needs to brush up on journalism ethics and principles."

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