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The above image is a StinkyJournalism spoof that merges the icon of ethical journalism, Walter Cronkite, with what may be its future--Nascar-like branding on the clothing of reporters. WGN Ch.9 Chicago, and the clothing company, L.L.Bean, have "partnered." Reporters will be clothed in L.L. Bean outerwear in exchange for a credit at the end of the newscast. (Photo Illustration).

Phil Rosenthal reported in The Chicago Tribune May 19 that WGN Channel 9 and L.L.Bean have partnered, exchanging L.L.Bean outerwear for a credit at the end of the newscast.

WGN Channel 9-Chicago’s news director Greg Caputo said “Tribune Co. lawyers vetted the deal,” Rosenthal reported. Rosenthal also reported that Caputo said the station doesn’t cover L.L.Bean as a company.

However, iMediaEthics found a YouTube video that shows May 13 WGN’s “Midday Fix” feature interviewing an L.L.Bean spokesperson about fly fishing gear for a four-minute segment. Is it a news segment or an undisclosed infomercial about “unique things at L.L. Bean” stores to sell fishing products?  Judge for yourself here.

The Chicago Tribune and WGN-Ch.9 are both owned by Tribune Co., as Rosenthal acknowledged.

Rosenthal reported that Caputo said no one at Channel 9 is required to wear the outerwear and that they can also cover up the logo.

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Rosenthal reported that Caputo said, “You can hardly buy anything today that doesn’t have somebody’s logo on it somewhere.  We have over the years provided outerwear for our people at various times, and this came along and it seemed to make sense. … They give us the jackets, we give them (a credit at the end of the week), and there’s a value attached to both sides of it.”See a WGN Ch. 9 newsperson reporting with a L.L. Bean jacket here.

Is it OK for a news station to be sponsored by a clothing line?  It’s one thing to wear suits or clothing from a brand; it’s another to wear and promote logos of that brand.

Robert Feder blogged on Vocalo that “turning reporters into commercial billboards is unprofessional and unethical.”

First Draft blogged May 20 that as long as the L.L.Bean-Ch.9 trade is disclosed, it’s sort of OK.  What First Draft is concerned with is how bloggers “get slammed” for doing this, but news organizations get a free pass.  First Draft cited an Online Journalism Review article questioning the ethics of bloggers being paid for writing about a product or service.

 

This screen shot detail from YouTube shows a WGN Ch. 9 reporter wearing a co-branded, L.L.Bean jacket. (Note the L.L. Bean logo on the left and the station logo on the right.

iMediaEthics is contacting WGN Ch. 9 News and will update with any response.

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WGN Ch. 9 Chicago Partners With L.L.Bean, Brands Reporters With Logo

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