o-DISGUSTED-KID-facebookLook in the dictionary beside the phrase, “Conflict of interest” and you’ll find a picture of the newspaper media critic. For years, newspapers thought they could fight back against television and radio news’ immediacy, emotion and credibility by shooting little rhetorical arrows at the medium, and the people who worked in it.

On of the great insults in the newspaper media critic’s arsenal was a weapon made in Britain: The, “Newsreader” label. This suggests electronic news people aren’t true, “Big J” journalists, but rather blow-dried ding dongs who just read. The blow-dried ding dongs always got angry about this. The news people just laughed.

Frankly though, “Newsreader” is an increasingly accurate description of what the job is. This is true for too many reasons to lay out here, but one of the most striking examples can be heard on this region’s last remaining blowtorch news radio station, KOMO 1000.

In 22-years and six markets as a news person, I never heard on air news people make direct, personalized commercial endorsements like they do on KOMO. This isn’t just stretching the envelope a little by voicing a commercial to help your pals in an undermanned production department, it’s Bill, Manda and Paul (et al.) using their names to do direct, personal pitches.

KOMO general manager Jim Clayton has been on the job seven months and tells me it’s a situation he inherited. He’s not happy about it, and he watches the types of clients his news readers pitch for, but the deals are in place and the boss at the region’s dominant locally owned media company has simply thrown up his hands. “I don’t love it, but it is what it is at this point,” he says.

Last week was Sunshine Week, when citizens and citizens employed as journalists come together to call for open records and open government. The cronyism, corruption, secrecy, obfuscation and evasion that clearly dominates our civic culture here in the Puget Sound region can only be fought if strong, independent media voices question authority and demand transparency.

Radio news is already on its deathbed in this country, but every time another news outlet cedes a little of its credibility in favor of becoming just a headline service dominated by commercial messages, our grip on freedom slips a little.

I hope the news readers at KOMO are scoring lucrative product trade-outs and fat talent fees. Being in a situation where you can bolster your brand every day on the region’s dominant news radio station and be allowed to cash-in on it represents a truly phenomenal financial opportunity. Just taking the standard voice talent fee would be a major mistake. If you’re going to go: Go big.

So as I pull the “newsreader” arrow out of the media critic’s quiver of hackneyed barbs, it’s not to take a self-interested swipe at a competitor in a vibrant marketplace as might have been the case in days gone by. Rather, I do it now to simply say how sad it is.