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Newspaper Atones for Ad’s Bad Tone

From our good friend and colleague, James Haggerty and his associate, Thom Weidlich:

With everything confronting newspapers these days, including a pandemic and the death of their business model, it’s notable that one — The Tennessean — could present us this week with a laudable crisis response. And this was a crisis that sprung internally, offering the publication no one to blame but itself.

On Sunday, June 21, the Nashville newspaper ran a full-page anti-Muslim ad that referred to an impending nuclear attack by “Islam.” It was sponsored by an Arkansas-based evangelical group called Future for America that is reportedly centered on apocalyptic preaching.

The group had run a similar ad (it didn’t mention Islam) in The Tennessean on Wednesday, June 17, and also ran notices on the paper’s website.

It was pretty clear that the newspaper had ignored internal processes and guidelines, which forbid hate speech. It was especially bad because Future for America admitted that other newspapers had rejected the campaign.

Before the Sunday ad was published, three staffers “had the opportunity to review the ad in its entirety,” but the sales and design teams didn’t read the full content, according to Kathy Jack-Romero, local sales president for Gannett, The Tennessean’s parent. One employee raised concerns, but a manager approved the copy anyway without reading all of it.

For the rest, click here.


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