Province pays $1.1M for travel writers to promote tourism over 4 years
Tourism Minister John Ames said the department considers the payment of reviews as advertising
The Department of Tourism picked up a tab of more than $1 million over a four-year span for travel bloggers, writers and journalists to visit the province and promote it in their writing.
The provincial government paid for air travel, meals, accommodations, guiding services, and transportation to host 879 members of the media between 2011 and 2015 to promote New Brunswick.
This is a common practice among provincial governments across Canada.
A total of $1,146,645 fell under the "hosting budget for media" within that four-year period.
The majority of writers paid to visit the province came from within Canada. They were also brought in from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
Those costs were also budgeted within the department.
A dollar amount for 2016 was not included in the government's response to a Right to Information request filed by CBC News. In January, the government said those figures had not been finalized.
According to the department, the province received more than $69 million worth of "comparable advertising space" for the cost of $1.1 million.
Tourism Minister John Ames said the department considers the payment of reviews to be advertising by the department.
"Media buying for our advertising campaigns is a part of our overall budget," he said.
A portion of the money budgeted by the department for coverage goes into New Brunswick businesses, as part of the department paying for entrance fees for journalists.
"Paying entry fees to New Brunswick attractions is a common practice when we showcase them to media representatives," said Ames.
Paying for meals, flights, accommodations, entry fees and travel to write reviews can leave little room for honest reviews.
"The reporters are wined and dined to the extent where you're buying a message," said Michael Camp, a journalism professor at St. Thomas University.
"You're getting what you want at the other end of it by showering someone with freebies."
"As journalism, and as something the government is involved in, I think it takes advantage of people," said Camp.
He said money can also affect a reporter's judgment.
"You're not getting the straight story," he said.
"It's under the influence of money, favours, goodies, and we should be very critical.
"There is a line between journalism, and sponsored, or commercial content, it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference."