I turned on the network news the other evening and, lo and behold, the announcer said, " 'World News Tonight' is brought to you by Honey Maid Grahams." The first thought to go through my head was, "Why in the world is Honey Maid Grahams bringing me the evening news?"
Fortunately, a producer for the network lives down the street. After the show I stopped by his house to try to get an answer. "How come your network is now giving us the news courtesy of graham crackers?"
"Would you rather we present it through Chicken of the Sea?" he asked.
"That's not the point. My question to you is what does it mean when the news is brought to me by Honey Maid Grahams? Did Honey Maid gather the news and did they decide what goes on the air?"
He smiled as if he was talking to the village idiot. "Honey Maid had nothing to do with gathering the news. The network did that. But somebody had to pay for it, and that's where the graham crackers come in. The Honey Maid people agreed to pay a bonus, and we guaranteed that we would tell everyone they brought the news to you. When it comes to attracting sponsors, a network will always walk the extra mile."
"That's fine and dandy," I said, "but if you announce at the beginning of the program that a graham cracker company is bringing you the news, how do we know we're getting all of it?"
"I'm not sure what you're driving at," he answered.
"Well, suppose some big scandal on graham crackers broke that day. Would the network sit on it because Honey Maid Grahams was sponsoring the news?"
"Absolutely not. We have an understanding that if anything happens in the graham cracker industry, we play it just as we would the Perrier accident -- straight down the line."
"Why does Honey Maid Grahams think that sponsoring the evening news will help sell more crackers?"
"Because its surveys indicate that people who watch the news are very nervous and will consume an entire box without even knowing it. You have drought, pestilence, war and dope trials on TV every night. The only thing that makes any sense for people watching the news is the commercials."
"I don't have a problem with who sponsors the news. What bothers me is that I don't want any company getting credit for bringing it to me. I am sure that Honey Maid Grahams had nothing to do with Mr. Gorbachev defending his economic reforms, or Margaret Thatcher lecturing President Mitterrand at 10 Downing Street, or Neil Bush explaining his role in the S&L scandal. You don't serve up news like that with graham crackers."
My producer buddy said, "These are not easy times for the networks. The price of news collecting is going up, and the number of minutes advertisers are buying is going down. We welcome the fact that Honey Maid Grahams will share our costs for covering major catastrophes."
I asked him, "As part of the deal, does everyone at the network have to eat graham crackers?"
He flushed, "There's no tie-in with Honey Maid. The network staff is free to eat Oreo cookies, ginger snaps or Fig Newtons. I don't know of one news reporter who eats graham crackers because Honey Maid Grahams is paying his or her salary."
"What about the people on the business side of the network?"
"They'll drink Quaker oil if it will help sell the show."