The greatest sin of the maritime press

The most grievous sin committed by many in the maritime press is not copy-and-paste journalism, which is rather common these days. Nor is it sloppy writing by reporters. It is the obliteration of the once-sacred line between editorial space and advertising space, the unabashed but often covert selling of the former for money or personal favours.

Many years ago, I found out how bad the situation was. I was writing for a British maritime journal and was hoping that one of my photos (I was using a manual film camera then) would make it to the magazine’s cover. It was not meant to be. To my utter dismay, I would come to the realisation that the editors regarded the cover as advertising space. Sometimes the cover photos had nothing to do at all with the main story.

Things have gone from bad to worse. Today, I see print and online maritime publications that are paltry excuses for making a buck. The editorial-advertising dichotomy is no more. It has been deep-sixed by advertorials, the overuse of company press releases and the recycling of stories already published elsewhere. Editors and reporters are not always after money, however. Free lunches or free overseas trips will do.

Thankfully, a few decent maritime publications still exist. These are the ones that practise the tenets of professional journalism and respect the line separating editorial from advertising space. Sometimes I wish we could all go back to the age of Johannes Gutenberg — when news was printed with unsophisticated machines but journalists were journalists and not publicists or hacks. Alas, that time has vanished. ~Barista Uno

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