Earlier this week, in response to the post “ If not Winfrey Point, what about Garland Road as a parking lot?“ Advocate reader Carol Bell-Walton posed this question:
I am curious, at what point does a corporate sponsorship become uncomfortable? The Advocate graciously sponsors the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden at the “Contributor” level for the beautiful Chihuly exhibit. Corporate sponsorships are vital to having a vibrant arts scene, and I think the Advocate deserves praise for its generosity. On the other hand, with all of the documents that have come to light about the intended privatization of White Rock Lake Park’s Winfrey Point and the associated uproar, is it uncomfortable to maintain such associations?
It’s no secret that our magazine is supported 100 percent by advertising dollars, the vast majority of which come from neighborhood businesses and organizations, such as the Dallas Arboretum. It’s also apparent, if you read our magazine each month, that we support a number of neighborhood events and nonprofits via advertising sponsorships.
So the question of whether advertising dollars and sponsorships affect our editorial coverage is a good one.
The answer? It does and it doesn’t.
There’s a line between editorial content and advertising dollars at the Advocate, thanks to a publisher who came up through the editorial ranks and believes in the integrity of journalism. The content in our magazine and on our website is not dictated or censored by the advertisers who appear on our pages, nor by the events whose banners bear our logo.
Our goal is to report objectively. But to say that we are unbiased would be a lie.
The thing is, we’re going to shop at your business. We’re going to eat at your restaurant. We’re going to run into you at the grocery store. So we’re not going to sit in our ivory tower and chew up and spit out whomever we please on a given day.
We live here, and that makes us accountable to our readers on a deeper level than affects most of the media.
And though we wholeheartedly support neighborhood businesses and nonprofits, at the end of the day, our responsibility is to advocate for neighbors.
Some of our neighbors work at the Dallas Arboretum. To us, it’s not a faceless institution. Behind it is a group of people we respect. We sponsor the arboretum’s events for the same reason that we sponsor many other worthy neighborhood events and causes — because we believe they enhance our neighborhood.
Does that mean we brush aside the concerns raised about arboretum parking and its future plans? No, as evidenced by the reporting we’ve already done and will continue to do. But neither are we going to drag the arboretum through the mud — or sully anyone else, for that matter — as a knee-jerk reaction to controversy because it will earn us a few more readers or a few more clicks on our website.
They deserve more from us, and more importantly, so do neighbors.