Journalism with a B

“Brand Journalism” is the buzzword floating around the advertising world right now. But what exactly is it? Well according to some, brand journalism is the method of marketing to consumers through stories, articles and other engaging content in hopes they interact with the brand and eventually choose to purchase their product or services.

So that’s one definition of brand journalism, but content -marketing website Contently has a slightly different one. According to them: “There is no such thing as brand journalism. Branded content is information, entertainment and education — and should have ethics. Journalism is independent.”

I’m in Contently’s camp. While some would argue its nothing but semantics, or that journalism was never that holy and pure to begin with, I think there is an important distinction between marketing and journalism that must be kept clear.

I’m an advertising student myself, but I also spent my junior year writing for my school newspaper, The Daily Evergreen. (You can find some of my cute first attempts at journalism here.) When I wrote for the Evergreen my focus was on delivering accurate news to the readers. I double, triple, quadruple-checked facts and names to make sure I wasn’t spreading misinformation. It was a duty to report on anything people should know — regardless of whose laundry got dirtied because of it.

My life as an advertising student is different. I’m still held to an ethical code.(Despite what people think about advertising people we’re not really that slimy.) But my commitment is ultimately to the brand I’m writing for — not the people reading my ad. I’m not leading the quest for truth like journalists, I’m writing engaging ads that hopefully sell some products.

Maybe I’m just a bit of a purist. I love the news. I read it when I wake up, between breaks in class, and before I go to bed. It’s nice to read an article and not expend extra mental energy figuring out if its trustworthy. I prefer to unfold my New York Times and bury myself in the front pages — soaking up events from around the world and knowing the only thing the NYT is trying to sell me is better awareness.

Or maybe not.

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