Philly Licenses & Inspections chief defends cost of ‘advertorials’ [updated]

Listen

A Philadelphia city department paying to place its own articles in the media is defending the practice, while a mayoral candidate is calling for the department head’s resignation.

As first reported by Philadelphia Magazine, the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections paid philly.com $15,000 to run three “advertorials,” which resemble news stories but are labeled as ads. 

“We thought it was important for the public to understand what we were doing since the tragic building collapse to improve public safety in the city of Philadelphia,” said Carlton Williams, department commissioner, a reference to the 2013 collapse that killed six and injured 13 others.

Since then, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “reported that we saved over 250 lives by strategic partnership and improved training,” Williams said.

But Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey is calling on Williams to step down for placing “propaganda articles” to improve the departmen’t image.

It’s “just another example of Philadelphia wasting our hard-earned tax dollars,” she said in a campaign statement issued late Wednesday afternoon.  “The commissioner tries to sell the city’s citizens on the improvement of the department with words instead of actually improving the department.”

Williams said the advertorials allowed him to get out the word on changes in his department.

“If we can’t get that out through traditional media outlets, it’s up to us,” he said. “And it’s  important that we make the investment so that the public understands the true story and the changes of L&I.”

Williams will not say if the department will pay for advertorials again.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.