Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Truth in

Some time ago I was flipping through the radio stations when I happened to hear about some sort of remedy to some sort of health problem that I thought I was having at the time. I don't remember what the problem was, but I didn't like it and wanted it to stop. If I'm still suffering the same disorder, I probably still don't like it. The remedy, in any case, involved magnets. I listened intently as they talked about the benefits of magnets, as I was eager to be cured of my ails. I listened until the end (which didn't take long since I tuned in half-way through), when I was informed that this was a paid advertisement. I was let down, although not too surprised. They spoke convincingly about their supposed solution, as if this solution had actually been tested, but their claims were unusual and sounded too good to be true. If I had known from the outset that I was listening to an ad, I would have changed the station immediately.

Although it takes more effort to read a paper than it does to listen to a radio station, one advantage is that when somebody publishes an advertisement that bears the appearance of an article, the newspapers have the courtesy to write a suggestive word such as "advertisement" at the top of the page. Any claims in the middle of the page that seem to be bunkum can be verified as such simply by directing one's gaze upward, thus saving a lot of time that might otherwise have been spent reading bunkum.

This being the age of free stuff on the Internet, newspapers have taken to publishing large portions of online offerings. In doing so, however, they seem to have dispensed with the courtesy of notifying their readers that what appears to be an article is in fact an advertisement.

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