A Newspaper’s Tasteless Ad Placement

For all of the lessons and lectures I suffered though on copyediting and proofreading over the years (and I’m assuming all aspiring journos go through something similar), one can only wonder how such egregious errors can still be made in the professional space. Everyone’s human, I suppose. But errors like the one made by the Stamford Advocate make me embarrassed for the journalism profession. Is this what we’ve come to?

In today’s paper, next to a story about the opening of the new “Sandy Hook Elementary School” the Advocate ran an advertisement for a local gun show.


And if you don’t see a problem with this, maybe you should be doing some of your own soul searching.

I’d like to know how many sets of eyes fell upon this page before it was sent to press. And you’re telling me that not one person picked up on the tasteless and terrible placement of such an advertisement? (For the paper’s sake, hopefully it was just one extremely tired employee who was violently ill and just had the worst day ever, otherwise, there’s really no excuse for missing something like this.)

What’s worse? It’s not the first time this has happened.

The USA Today has the rest of the story:

An executive for the Stamford (Conn.) Advocateapologized Thursday for the appearance of a gun show ad next to a news story about the resumption of classes for Sandy Hook Elementary School students for the first time since the shootings that killed 20 children and six adults Dec. 14.

A photograph of the juxtaposition of the article and an ad for the “East Coast Fine Arms Show” quickly made the rounds on Twitter.

Media critic Jim Romenesko weighed in, asking, “Shouldn’t it be standard operating procedure at this point to make sure there aren’t gun ads next to school shooting-related stories?”

In an e-mail, Paul Farrell, Group Publisher for Hearst Media Services in Connecticut, said:

“Our newspapers should not be running gun ads — including ads for antique and collectible gun shows — next to stories about Sandy Hook. It’s insensitive, and it shouldn’t have happened. It was an oversight, and we apologize for it. We have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

It was not the first time since the Newtown massacre that gun sale ads have awkwardly — if unintentionally — showed up beside or near a story about the tragic deaths.Romenesko noted that the Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call and the Rock Hill (S.C.) Heraldhad both done likewise.

Herald editor Paul Osmondson apologized to readers, saying, “We at The Herald should have recognized the unfortunate juxtaposition of the advertisement with stories and a photograph about gun violence.”

“Multiple editors worked on the page and should have noticed the problem,” Osmondson wrote. “We all made a terrible mistake, and for that I apologize.”

Those were both out-of-state newspapers, while Stamford is 40 miles from Newtown, the site of the shooting.

Just sickening.

(Full story on USAToday.com)


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I'm an editor for Associations Now, a magazine pubished by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership. I live in Springfield, VA with my amazing wife, and am enjoying the ride that life is taking me on.


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2 Comments on “A Newspaper’s Tasteless Ad Placement”

  1. Becky Boyle
    January 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    So the question becomes whether staffing has been cut so far down that people don’t have time to adequately do their jobs or whether there is no longer an emphasis on actually doing their jobs adequately. High school and college papers/yearbooks teach you to look at the full page layout as a whole to make sure that nothing like this happens– why isn’t this happening at the professional level?

    • January 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Becky!

      My fear is that both parts of the question you pose are true. Papers, as has been glaringly obvious in this digital age, are money sucking machines. The inability to hire staff means relying on what’s available in-house. This, in turn, means the staff has more on their collective plate, and they begin to take for granted the smaller details of the job.

      Neither of these things equate to an adequate excuse for not performing the basic functions of being a journalist. Attention should always be on detail, and that’s where this paper failed.

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