SF Bay Area station runs sponsored health ‘news’

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Michael Mechanic, a senior editor at Mother Jones, blogs about airtime for sale at KRON-San Francisco, a television station that calls itself “the Bay Area’s News Station.” (The section of Mechanic’s post about television segments for sale is about a third of the way through the blog post, starting with “It’s not just the newspapers, of course.”)

KRON, which used to be an NBC affiliate but is now independent, features segments designed to look like news stories but are actually paid for by sponsors. One such segment is called “Medical Mondays:”

The 24-minute segment is preceded by a seven-second disclaimer noting that the following program was paid for by Seton Medical Center. If you happened to tune it in after eight seconds, you’d be none the wiser.

Mechanic describes the segments as looking and feeling like real news, with a ticker and chirons similar to those on regular newscasts.

KRON also runs a show called “Morning News” featuring paid spots with experts, including features called “Eye on Health” and “Weight Solutions.” Mechanic says the financial relationships are not always disclosed and, when they are, they are “mostly couched in the vague language of sponsorship and partnership.”

AHCJ and the Society of Professional Journalists have taken a stand against such unhealthy alliances between news outlets and hospitals.

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