It’s one of my favorite stories about the interactions between readers and journalists.
A journalist friend of mine who sat across from me in the newsroom was having a heated discussion with a reader. The woman was unhappy with a story my friend had written for the morning paper. The woman ended up telling my friend that she was going to “cancel her subscription.” My friend responded, “Damn. I was going to get 50 cents extra on my paycheck because of your subscription.”
It’s not necessarily the response to an angry reader that I would recommend, but the point is well taken.
The bulk of a publication’s revenue does not come from subscriptions. The money comes from advertising. In a way, subscribers are the means to an end. The more people who read (and, trust me, journalists want people to read) the more likely a publication is to attract advertisers and the more they can charge for the space.
It’s the business side of journalism that most journalists wish they knew less about, although they increasingly need to understand more.
It is the conflict between news and the bottom line that inspired this week’s ethics question for my media law and ethics class. I asked students to take a stance on the question:
“Should newspapers and television stations run gun advertising?”
This question is especially salient in light of several recent issues involving placement of gun advertising in newspapers.
The editor of The Herald in Rock Hill, S.C., apologized in December after a gun advertisement was placed near a photo and story about the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. The editor explained that the ad was placed before the content, but went unnoticed during the pagination and proofing process.
The Stamford Advocate ran an ad for a gun show in January next to stories about Sandy Hook. The Hearst Connecticut Media Group’s executive editor admitted the ad was “insensitive” and apologized for the oversight of running it.
The two issues made me wonder if media groups everywhere should take a closer look at weapon-related advertising. I’d love for you to weigh in on the issue.
Let’s Talk Nerdy!
Should newspapers and television stations stop accepting gun advertising? If not, should they create new policies on where and when these types of ads run?