Should Media Reconsider Gun Advertising?

It’s one of my favorite stories about the interactions between readers and journalists.

gunA 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?

15 comments
profkrg
profkrg moderator

I thought you might be interested to know that all but one student in my course said that gun advertising should continue.

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dadofdivas
dadofdivas

I don't see advertising either...but maybe I am not looking in the right places

Mooseville
Mooseville

I must first ask that you rotate your photo so your gun is pointing away from me. Then we can discuss.

jsncruz
jsncruz

I work in advertising and trust me, reminding people of anything which makes them desire that same thing helps it sell - why should guns be any different? I say NO to gun ads.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

I never actually SEE gun advertising here in the States.

Michelle_Mazur
Michelle_Mazur

I believe it should be banned as well. We can't advertise cigarettes on television because it kills people. We should have the same regulation on gun advertising. 

danielalex_book
danielalex_book

I believe it should be banned.

I don't live in the States, but from media and other sources, it seems Americans are fed propaganda that carrying a gun is each persons right. It definitely seems a cultural trend over in the States.

However, many studies have proved that cities, towns, countries are much safer without gun.

Are guns really necessary in a civilized society?

Maybe army personnel should carry a gun, but I don't think Joe ordinary-citizen should NEED to carry a gun.

profkrg
profkrg moderator

@AmyMccTobin We have gun show advertising in Oklahoma on television, in newspapers and on billboards. I don't know that I see gun advertising, specifically, but there are several examples in the post.

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Michelle_Mazur
Michelle_Mazur

@danielalex_book I also ask myself the question are guns necessary in a civilized society. I don't get people's love affair with them.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

@profkrg @AmyMccTobin I guess it's very Regional, and that makes sense.  When I lived in PA I never saw them, and I'm down on the West Coast of FL and don't either.  But that makes sense.

danielalex_book
danielalex_book

@profkrg @Michelle_Mazur For various reasons, I don't agree with marketing and advertising in general, so my line is in a very different place to most peoples. In saying that I too have to advertise myself and my book. We're all stuck in this system... But, these are the issues that I would like to change one day; although in a very different way. I have a very unique perspective on how advertising 'should' be. You have raised a good point though Kenna; it's a complex issue. For me personally, alcohol: no, cars: yes, fast food: no. Maybe another way of looking at this issue is this: any legal product in our society as it currently is, has the 'right' (I used 'right' very loosely here) to market itself. Maybe the issue is, should guns be legal in our society? I see Michelle's point. Their sole purpose is to kill, hurt and destroy. So are guns what we want to take forward in our now 'civilized' society?

Michelle_Mazur
Michelle_Mazur

@profkrg What is the purpose of a gun? Shooting things? Killing stuff? Cars - the purpose is to get us somewhere. Fast food is still "food". Well an alcohol  - yeah that's probably the one legalized drug that really is a significant problem. 

if the main purpose of something is to kill things, I don't think it needs to be advertised.