The Lexington Police have quietly spent thousands on ads with WKYT since December 2021
The purchases include sponsored content designed to look like a real news article
Lexington, Ky.–The Lexington Police Department spent a total of $5,850 on advertising with local CBS affiliate WKYT between December 2021 and March 2022, according to records obtained from LPD under the Kentucky Open Records Act. The ads included sponsored articles that appear to be journalistic news stories, but bear a fine print disclaimer:
The following content is created on behalf of Lexington Police Department and does not reflect the opinions of Gray Media or its editorial staff. To learn more about Lexington Police Department, visit https://www.lexingtonky.gov/joinlexpolice.“Lexington Police Department receives $8000 salary improvement in 2023,” undated WKYT sponsored article
The ad buys with WKYT are for recruitment purposes, according to LPD. They also paid WTVQ for a spot in a virtual job fair, but do not appear to have run any sponsored content with the local ABC affiliate.
WKYT has been criticized for its coverage of LPD in the past. In September, they falsely reported on an in fact nonexistent audit done by LPD on the new Flock automatic license plate reader system. The network also does not report officer misconduct and has a history of running pro-law enforcement “fluff” stories.
Activist Mike Maharrey, who once unsuccessfully sued LPD for the release of all the locations of local surveillance equipment, didn’t see the ad buys as a smoking gun, though. He said that many local news stations often give overly positive coverage of law enforcement.
I don’t think the advertising is necessarily as big a smoking gun as it seems. News organizations do a pretty good job of keeping advertising separate from news operations. That said, as I commented to Clay below, news directors and reporters are terrified of being cut off from police press releases and public information officers. As a result, they go out of their way to maintain a “good” relationship. In other words, they won’t report negative stories because they don’t want to be punished by having the access to info cut off. After all, most of their stories are just regurgitated press releases. I worked for LEX18 for a number of years and I saw this dynamic in operation firsthand.Mike Maharrey
WKYT did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
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