boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
ALEX BEAM

It's time for a new brand of journalism

Of course you have noticed that everyone is on the take. And you are thinking: Why not me?

Last week The Wall Street Journal revealed that (1) consumer product ''experts" like Corey Greenberg and the improbably named Katlean de Monchy receive payments from companies whose wares they praise on TV, and (2) many top-of-the-line chefs accept freebie food and cookware as part of sponsorship deals that are not disclosed to clients. Here is a lovely quote about Wellesley's own Blue Ginger, run by superchef Ming Tsai: ''Mr. Tsai's kitchen is filled with ingredients and tools from his sponsors."

Around the same time, The New York Times heralded the arrival of paid product placements, now ubiquitous in movies and television, on Broadway. A line from the original production of ''Sweet Charity" -- ''A double Scotch, again, sir?" -- has been changed to ''Gran Centenario, the tequila?" for the musical's current revival.

First ''Sweet Charity"; can Shakespeare be far behind? In ''A Midsummer Night's Dream" we can look forward to hearing: ''I know a bank where the wild thyme blows -- Citizens Bank!" When ABC-TV next stages ''Hamlet" we can anticipate: ''To be, or not to be? Is that your final question?"

You get the point. So the challenge remains: How to get in on the action.

It is important to think like the hucksters, I mean the entrepreneurs. Look at your everyday life as a potential branding or sponsorship opportunity. Ask the auto dealer for a $1,000 price break in return for leaving the ''Toyota" or ''Herb Chambers" logos on your car. If he wants you to display his ads, let him pay for them! If your office buys its supplies from Staples, make them your ''official supplier" -- put it on your letterhead -- in return for 30 percent off at the cash register.

Send Phil Knight a letter. He pays Tiger Woods to fly the Nike ''swoosh." Make him pay you.

Perhaps you are a schoolteacher. Not much scope for selling out, you think. Wrong! Suppose you are teaching the Hundred Years' War, which no one remembers. Write a letter to the French Embassy and offer to teach the whole bloody epoch as a series of resounding French military triumphs. (Agincourt? Never heard of it!) In return, you get a week in Paris, all expenses paid. Why not? The French could use the favorable PR, and you could use the break.

If you teach science, even better. Don't let the timeservers on the school board decide whether God made the universe or whether we evolved from the monkeys. Let the market decide. If the right-wing crackpots -- sorry, ''people of faith" -- can spend megabucks to promote knuckle-dragging judges, they can surely finance some creationist teaching in local schools. See how much they will pay, then go across the street to the National Science Foundation, and shake it down for a ''donation." You want play? You have to pay! That's what I call economic Darwinism.

Churches aren't normally thought of as profit centers. OK, the vestry has rented out the steeple for a Verizon cellphone tower; that's a good start. Now think outdoor signage. Change that dippy message facing the street, ''God Is Your Best Friend" to ''God Is Your Best 'Friends' Every Night at 7 on WLVI-56!" Do you have an after-service ''coffee hour"? Call it ''Starbucks Hour," for the right price. They can print catchy Bible quotes (''Be not rash with thy mouth") on the sides of the cups.

Sadly for me, newspaper journalism affords few opportunities for effective sponsorship and placements. Advertisements tend to be clearly marked and segregated graphically from the news. The notion that any large advertiser DUNKIN' DONUTS could slip its company name or logo into the sacrosanct DUNKIN' DONUTS columns of DUNKIN' DONUTS news reporting and dispassionate DUNKIN' DONUTS opinion could never be considered. It's the most sacred tenet of journalism.

My friend Joseph Finder once suggested that I charge people $1,000 a year to keep their names or company names out of my column. I guess he never anted up. Did I mention that his new novel, ''Company Man," has just been published? Maybe he did ante up, after all.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives