Apologies After Vernon Ethics Advisor Featured in Advertorial, not News Story

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Ethics advisor John Van de Kamp was surprised by being featured in an advertisement for the city of Vernon when he thought the interview he gave was to be used in a news story. (Credit: City of Vernon)

iMediaEthics wrote this weekend about former California attorney general John Van de Kamp, who is currently serving as the ethics advisor for the city of Vernon, California.  An interview with Van de Kamp was recently featured in an advertisement for the city, but Van de Kamp thought he was being interviewed for a news story. (Read our original story on this topic here.)

Fred MacFarlane, Vernon’s media consultant, e-mailed iMediaEthics and accepted the fall for the confusion.  MacFarlane, who wrote that he is in charge of  the “multi-part advertorial project” for Vernon including the advertorial featuring Van de Kamp, wrote:

“I acknowledged having erred in overseeing the advertorial that featured Mr. Van de Kamp. I erred on the front end of this project in suggesting Mr. Van de Kamp as an interview subject for the advertorial. I erred on the back end of this project by not halting the advertorial featuring Mr. Van de Kamp before it was published. I apologized to Mr. Van de Kamp for these mistakes. Mr. Van de Kamp accepted my apology.”

StinkyJournalism spoke with John Van de Kamp by phone last night.  He explained that “everybody was very apologetic” yesterday.  Van de Kamp, who didn’t know the interview was for an advertisement until he saw it in the paper, said that now that the confusion has been cleared up, he plans to move on from the incident.

“It was unfortunate, but it happened,” Van de Kamp commented.   He noted that his interviewer, Edward Barrera, has been a reporter, and explained that they didn’t “get into a long introduction” before the interview.  Van de Kamp said the article itself (see here) was accurate to the interview, and that his problems with the use of his comments as an advertisement and not a straight news story were two-fold:  format and context.

Van de Kamp’s position as ethics advisor is an independent post, and, as he told the Los Angeles Times, he’s not there to serve as a “flak” for Vernon. He told StinkyJournalism that he doesn’t “think it was appropriate” for him to “be a publicist for the city.”

The advertisements are part of Vernon’s countering a bill in the assembly to disincorporate the city, Van de Kamp said.

Vernon has “bought space in a number of newspapers to tell their story.”  Vernon, according to Van de Kamp, may have about 100 residents, but 55,000 people work in the “industrial city” that includes meat packing plants and apparel companies.  The “concern about disincorporating,” according to Van de Kamp, is job loss.

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Apologies After Vernon Ethics Advisor Featured in Advertorial, not News Story

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