Product placement is something that has been going on in television for years. Some might say it's creeping into journalism as well.
Recently the Writer's Guild of America became so upset with the growing trend that they called for a code of conduct to govern the practice. I wrote about it for Wired News. This story was actually frustrating to write because TV writers don't make themselves easily accessible.
In fact, a little bit ago I had a post about the pain of waiting, that post was inspired by how difficult it is to get in touch with TV writers -- I wrote it while waiting for several people to return calls.
TV writers act as if they are the Wizard of Oz in our culture. Behind the great screen of television they pull the strings that tug at our emotional heart and cultural cohesion. My story doesn't reflect it, but I spoke with quit a few writers, including ones from Futurama, Star Trek The Next Generation and more. I tried to get in touch with others, including the writer from Days of Our Lives, but I got the impression that TV writers think they are above journalists or other non-fiction writers. They either made it difficult to reach them (having to go through various PR people) or simply ignored my multiple phone calls. Maybe they were afraid I was going to call them out on something, but in truth the story was aimed at slamming the broadcasters who keep on making the product placement deals, despite FCC regulations that restrict it.
I think the story could have come out sooner with a little cooperation from the TV writers. Nonetheless, it's an interesting piece. From my conversations I gathered that this call to govern product placements, specifically in reality television shows, is actually an attempt to better the WGA's position when it's time to renegotiate their contract with the broadcasters. From their point of view it's time that reality television show writers get put into the Writer's Guild union.
Interesting question. Is there such a thing as reality TV writer and do they deserve to be in the union? This question requires a post in itself, I'll leave it to comments if there are any.
Update: The story got Slashdoted. To my knoweldge I've only been on Slashdot twice, so this is exciting. I guess good things come to those who wait. Update 12-15-05: I have been Slashdoted 4 or 5 times, but I tend to only recieve 100-200 comments. Last I checked this piece got 460 comments.