Newsrooms must confront sponsored content ethical dilemmas

OCT. 6, 2015 — Newsrooms must establish guidelines that clearly distinguish between what is journalism and what is advertising, says a new discussion paper from the Canadian Association of Journalists’ ethics advisory committee.

Content created to serve private interests is inherently different than content published in the public interest, says paper co-author Esther Enkin. “The CAJ ethics committee is clear that sponsored content does not meet the CAJ's own definition of journalism. But it's everywhere, and it's part of the working life of many of our colleagues,” she says.

“We hope this paper will spark a lively debate about the short and long term ethical implications of this ubiquitous model.”

Newsrooms confront two major ethical issues when it comes to sponsored content: potential deception of readers, and even self-deception within newsrooms; and conflict of interest involving journalists who both write critically and contribute to sponsored content on the same beat. The committee encourages newsrooms to acknowledge those issues and address them appropriately.

To read the discussion paper, click here.

The CAJ’s ethics advisory committee considers and provides advice on ethical issues faced by journalists through the course of their regular work. Members are appointed by the CAJ’s national board of directors, and the chair or co-chairs are appointed by the board from among the committee members.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

For further information:
Esther Enkin
CBC Ombudsman and report co-author

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
CAJ president

Return to list