the Inside Higher Ed purchase is a bellwether

Via Gawker, a private equity firm that is massively invested in for-profit colleges has purchased a controlling stake in Inside Higher Ed, a publication that covers colleges and universities. That’s about as direct a conflict of interest as you can get.

1. Inside Higher Ed should not be trusted as a source of legitimate news about for-profit colleges and universities any longer, and perhaps not trusted as a legitimate source of news, period. Treat anything published by it about for-profit colleges like PR or advertising, because that’s essentially what it’ll be.

2. I’m willing to bet that this is going to happen a lot more often. The continuing financial troubles of journalism as an industry has to have industry licking its chops. We’re already seeing more and more fusion between for-profit entities and magazines, paper or digital — “advertorials,” “native content,” and various other weaselly terms I refuse to write without scare quotes. I have always found it profoundly insulting when people claim that the purpose of these ventures is not to fool readers into thinking that the copy they’re reading is like any other story; if so, why wouldn’t they then make them entirely visually different? If there’s no intent to confuse, then make them as visually and obviously distinct as possible. Well, now we’re going a step further. Rather than trying to get these publications to run your advertising in a way designed to confuse advertising for editorial, or to use your PR flacks to pressure them to give you favorable coverage, why not cut out the middle man and buy them outright? And as this happens more and more, people will be more and more inclined to simply call this standard operating procedure. Hey, everyone else is doing it! Why not us?

5 Comments

  1. There’s always CHE, I guess.

    But it would be great if someone with connections and technical know-how could start a new, independent Higher Ed magazine, from scratch.

  2. It’s sure going to be entertaining to read Buzzfeed after the Koch Brothers buy it. I’m guessing they won’t outright deny climate change, but just concern troll the hell out of any efforts to do anything about it.

  3. That’s terrible news (pun not intended, but it works). I don’t know how much the coverage will specifically change, since the hedge fund is likely more interested in it serving as a cash machine versus anything else, but it will probably affect coverage indirectly by much stronger pressure to turn a higher short-term profit.

  4. We all know where this is going.

    “Top 10 ways Trigger Warnings are upsetting girls in bikinis on YOUR CAMPUS!”

    “He applied for tenure as a woman! YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!”

    “They appointed him Dean, but YOU WILL BE SHOCKED AT HIS RESPONSE!”

  5. What makes you think this hasn’t always been the situation with the media? If you have a lot of money and you want to get a message across, the easiest way to do that is to purchase a media property. It’s the same in 2014 as it was in 1850.

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