I recently attended a presentation titled "21st Century Propaganda: Understanding Today's Media System," given by Jeff Nygaard, the author of "Nygaard Notes." He discussed conspiracies to brainwash the masses, talking about the media and how they function to produce propaganda by elevating certain ideas and diminishing others. He further implied how the content of newspapers is dictated by advertisers.
A room full of people were attentatively hanging on every word this man was saying and I sat there wondering if any of them knew a member of the media was present. I left feeling very discouraged, mostly because, as a journalist, I felt as though I was being unfairly lumped into a web of corruption simply because of my occupation.
Nygaard told his captive audience that a newspaper layout begins with the placement of ads and the leftover "holes" are filled in with news afterwards. He essentially was implying that reporters want to climb the media ladder to become editors or publishers and that they are influenced by those with money and power that seek to dictate the information being presented to the public.
He was absolutely correct on how a newspaper is laid out, but that does not mean that said advertisers sit on the edge of a reporter's desk telling them which stories they can and cannot write.
While Nygaard may have a point — that on a national level advertisers could influence the content of a newspaper — here in a small community such as ours, I would say the opposite is true. I think it's a more accurate statement to say that the content of our newspaper is what dictates our advertisers.
If local businesses do not feel that their clientele has any interest in our local paper, they may not advertise. They want to know that our readers are the type of people that will do business with them.
In our small town, we reporters are not here to dupe anyone. We have more integrity than that and it is mainly due to the fact that we love our community. I personally grew up in this town. I was born here. People I love and care about live here. I simply want to tell fair and accurate stories to keep my community informed. I have absolutely no intention of writing "fake news."
To his credit, Nygaard did mention that without advertisers, newspapers would not exist. This is also true. Our newspaper is not funded by subscriptions. Without the support of local businesses advertising in our paper, there would be no paper to print.
However, I want to reiterate that that does not mean that our pockets are lined with money. We reporters have little to no contact with our advertisers other than when they open up the newspaper on Wednesdays and Saturdays to read the stories we have worked hard to deliver to them as readers.