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18Jun 2013

The Times in the UK turns story into advertising.

In April, I wrote that Time magazine had violated advertising standards by placing an ad for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center right in the middle of a story that extolled M.D. Anderson. Time assured me that it had not violated standards, even though the evidence was there for all to see.

Now The Times in the UK has jumped on this money-making trend. A recent story on the discovery of Prince William's Indian ancestry featured a company called BritainsDNA, which did the genetic analysis. As Roy Greenslade of The Guardian reports, the story featured "a special readers' offer in company with none other than BritainsDNA." Readers "are urged to order a test on the company's website or by phone. And Times+ members were informed that they could enjoy "a free upgrade package worth £65 when they order a DNA test from BritainsDNA."

It would be laughable if it were not so harmful to journalists' credibility. Who could possibly trust The Times's reporting on BritainsDNA after seeing this? Should we trust any of the paper's reporting? Was this really worth a few pieces of silver?

All we have is our credibility, folks. Let's not put ourselves up for sale. Times reporters and editors who think otherwise should look for a job at BritainsDNA.

-Paul Raeburn

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