NEWARK, NJ: The City of Newark is paying a local weekly newspaper $100,000 a year to secure favorable coverage.
Visions Metro Weekly (VMW) newspaper is published by Legacy Media Group, a PR firm. The group hold a contract with the city for "media consulting services in the development of positive news stories."
VMW, also known as Newark Weekly News, has been publishing since July of this year. It has a circulation of 25,000, as well as a website that has 10,000 subscribers.
The contract has drawn criticism from journalism experts who classify it as propaganda. But Howard Scott, editor of VMW and partner at Legacy Media Group, said the work is in line with the paper's mission of spreading positive news.
"We seek out those items that may be overlooked by mainline media that we feel are important to this urban community," he said.
As part of the contract, which was officially approved by the City Council earlier this month, Scott said he meets with the City's communications department weekly to discuss possible news stories. Such stories promote city services such as free flu shots and street hockey leagues.
Scott said his paper doesn't cover negative news, because most of its readers are reading such items in other papers.
He added that stories are not labeled as advertorials because they are reported by the paper's staff, and are not merely reprinted press releases.
Scott said he plans to use the $100,000 to hire additional reporters and photographers, whose assignments would not be confined to those generated by the city.
Newark's Mayor and City Council offices did not return calls for comment.
As of press time, there was no indication that any legal action was pending regarding the contract.