A few weeks ago, my friend Amy Shelf got a call from San Francisco’s KRON 4, a former NBC affiliate, now independent, that bills itself “the Bay Area’s News Station.” The caller, a polite young woman, wanted to set up a meeting with Amy to talk about opportunities for her to appear on the air and speak about legal issues—Amy is a lawyer.
Was the caller a news producer? Not exactly. She wanted Amy to pay $1,000, presumably per month, to star in a five-minute monthly segment. Amy consulted her moral compass. “I was like, ‘I think that’s totally unethical,’” she tells me later, recalling the conversation. “And she said, ‘Well, it looks like the news.’ And I said, ‘That’s exactly what makes it unethical!’”
KRON’s sales rep quickly added that the paid segments were identified as such, but Amy still wasn’t buying. Proper disclosure, of course, would make the whole thing just a bit less slimy. So I went online and viewed some of the segments in question. There was plenty to be concerned about.