A bit of unintended irony in Friday’s Burlington Free Press. Page A13 featured a nice article about the awards given to the Freeploid by the Vermont Press Association.
Which, okay, whatever. The Free Press ought to take home a bunch of awards from the VPA. It is, by far, the biggest newspaper in the state. For the Freeploid, winning VPA awards is kind of like a 14-year-old faking his age and playing in Little League. Substantial built-in advantage.
But then, on page C3, there was a prime example of the Free Press’ diminished status. The page contained a column of Business Briefs, a series of items ripped straight from press releases and deployed to occupy space on a day when ad sales fall a bit short.
The first of the three started like this:
Walmart gives pay raises to 753 in Vermont
Walmart gave the largest single-day, privatesector [sic] pay increase ever on March 10 to more than 1.2 million Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in the United States, including 753 in Vermont. All employees hired before Jan. 1, 2016, will earn at least $9.60 an hour.
Well, isn’t that nice. How generous of an enterprise not known for its generosity.
But wait. Didn’t Vermont’s minimum wage just go up?
Why yes, in fact, it did. On January 1, the state minimum wage increased to… wait for it… $9.60 an hour.
Great. Walmart is bragging about something it was required to do by law. And the Free Press let ‘em get away with it. In fact, it wrote a headline in support of the baseless brag.
In fairness, these blurbs are shoveled into the paper with absolutely minimal editorial oversight. Also in fairness, this is a national press release salted with state-specific numbers. A slightly altered version probably ran in every Gannett paper in the country, including plenty of states with lower minimum wages.
But still. This was not advertising, it was what they used to call “news.” (The kids today call it “content.”) It was given the imprimatur of Vermont’s award-winning newspaper. And it amounted to a reach-around for a major advertiser.
Deliberate or careless? I’m guessing careless, but either way, it’s another example of what we can expect from the Newsroom Of The Future.