Sunday, May 09, 2010

Newspaper Will Print for Profit

"The coming Oil Spill Advertising War looks inevitable."
Yesterday, we gave special attention to weekly Independent News publisher Rick Outzen's decision to refuse a British Petroleum ad blowing smoke in the public's eyes. Fairness dictates we do the same for Gannett Newspaper's exploitation of the same opportunity.

It's unlikely the decision to run the ad was made by anyone at the Pensacola News Journal. We suppose it was decided at a higher level within mega-media Gannett Corporation's headquarters in McLean, Virginia. Here's a scan of the heading:

To be sure, there is a case to be made that BP's dead-tree advertisement contains some minimal information that might be of interest to someone from, say, Mars who just landed on Earth. The BP ad is all text, promoting mostly a few of BP's web site addresses and phone numbers and slapping itself on the back for doing such a great job.

But there's no avoiding the fact it is a self-serving advertisement. It surely is designed to counteract the oil corporation's lousy image precisely at a time when many reliable news sources are reporting BP has one of the worst safety and environmental records in the entire industry.

There is one oddity about the ad, however, that we find noteworthy. The PNJ does not explicitly label it as a commercial advertisement. Indeed, the ad easily could be mistaken by some readers as a public service announcement.

This point is illustrated by simply turning the page to see another half-page advertisement in the same issue of today's local newspaper. This one truly is a public service announcement, placed by the Supervisor of Elections of Santa Rosa County. (We've obscured the names and addresses listed for privacy reasons.)

This all-text ad is clearly labeled "advertisement." You can see it here in close-up:

In fairness, the PNJ is running another half-page oil-spill advertisement in the same section. It was placed by the well-known local plaintiff's law firm of Levin Papantonio. That ad also does not bear the "advertisement" disclosure:

Yes, we do get it. Newspapers don't make money selling ads to their advertisers. To survive, they make money selling your eyeballs to their advertisers. Nor do we pretend to know whatever constraints the PNJ's composition room may be operating under.

One thing we are sure about: as this unprecedented oil spill catastrophe goes on and on, more advertisements can be expected from the oil industry, their complaisant mouthpieces, law firms hoping to corral clients for and against compensation demands, and both nonprofit and partisan political organizations.

Every newsprint publication is free to make its own judgment about whether to accept and publish those ads. That's the American way, enshrined in the Constitution. Rick Outzen made one judgment; the PNJ came to a different conclusion. Both, no doubt, have reasons one can respect.

The coming Oil Spill Advertising War looks inevitable. Let's hope, at a minimum, the press fairly alerts the reading public with an "advertisement" warning whenever self-serving propaganda is being presented in exchange for twelve pieces of silver. Survival is critical to a free press, but only so long as the price to be paid isn't loss of integrity as a trusted news source.

1 comment:

Merle Savage said...

My name is Merle Savage; a female general foreman during the EVOS beach cleanup in 1989, which turned into 20 years of extensive health deterioration for me and many other workers. Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches. She also informed me that Exxon's medical records and the reports that surfaced in litigation brought by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions.

Dr. Riki Ott has devoted her life to taking control from corporations and giving it back to We The People. If corporations continue to control our legal system, then We The People become victims.

Dr. Riki Ott has written two books; Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$ and Not One Drop. Dr. Ott has investigated and studied the oil spill spraying, and quotes numerous reports in her books, on the toxic chemicals that were used during the 1989 Prince William Sound oily beach cleanup. Black Wave the Film is based on Not One Drop, with interviews of EVOS victims; my interview was featured in the section; Like a War Zone.

Exxon developed the toxic spraying; OSHA, the Coast Guard, and the state of Alaska authorized the procedure; VECO and other Exxon contractors implemented it. Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air -- the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions and central nervous system problems, along with other massive health issues. Some of the illnesses include neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease.
Please view the 7 minute video that validates my accusations.

My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many -- and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of us.