November 11, 2011
In came a phone call this morning from someone at USA Today. I take calls from journalists whenever I can: I appreciate their interest, and the opportunity to have Earlham seen by a wider audience.
This call was in reference to USA Today’s “Guide to Living Green,” a supplement they are putting together, I gather, about sustainability that will feature what various colleges and universities are doing to further environmental sustainability. The caller said he was contacting us because we had received an A- grade on a recent sustainability report card that has been published online by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.
It quickly became apparent that this was not an interview to learn more about what we are doing at Earlham. Rather, it was a sales call: did we want to publicize our efforts by paying $3500 that would allow us to present what we are doing.
I thanked him, but declined the offer. I told him that I’d rather spend $3500 on financial aid for a student. I told him we do hope people notice what we are doing about sustainability, but we won’t pay for the coverage.
We get such calls with increasing frequency from various media. Often the calls are from someone at a TV network (what does that mean today?) that offers to do a piece featuring Earlham, but it gradually emerges that there is a price we will have to pay for the coverage. Others say yes, but we say no.
Of course we do pay for advertising, and we try to be thoughtful about how we spend that money. But these pitches feel like faux journalism. We’d rather be the ones taking the initiative when we’re advertising.