Those Smart Advertisers

The New York Times ran an ad in today’s paper on page seven of the A section for Pastor Ock Soo Park. The full-page ad was titled, “The Good News,” and carried a headline-type sub-title, “Pitch it Within and Without With Pitch.”

The design of the ad was clear. Make it look like a genuine page of the newspaper and increase the likelihood people will, at least, start to read it. The ad is actually a rant by Park and it includes a sub-ad for the Bible Crusade he will host at Madison Square Garden in November.

Apparently another sermon, one can assume another full-page size, will run on Monday, October 23. This is an example of the Times separating their editorial and advertising functions. I wonder how a reporter at the Times would have reacted after seeing this ad in today’s edition of the paper.

Do media outlets have the right to question the ads they receive? Can they refuse an ad if it crosses an ethical boundary? Who determines what the ethical boundary is? Is it the publisher, the editor, the owner? For example, if a newspaper receives an ad placement form from a tobacco company can they decide not to run it without running the risk of setting a precedent against certain companies, industries or advertisers?

This topic was featured in a case study in Media Ethics Issues and Cases. The University of Louisville’s student newspaper, the Louisville Cardinal, refused an ad from a company that provided ready-made research papers. They were an independent paper, but faced criticism because they acted as a censor to certain advertisers.

In this case, the Cardinal went through discussions with the staff before making the decision. Is it more important for a media outlet not to discriminate against advertisers or to deny advertisements based on a pre-determined set of criteria? I don’t think there is one right answer.

Anonymous (not verified) @ December 28, 2006 - 7:31pm


I pulled this definintion of rant the noun as you used it in your article "Those Smart Advertisers" from the American Heritage Dictionary (;

n. 1. Violent or extravagant speech or writing. 2. A speech or piece of writing that incites anger or violence: "The vast majority [of teenagers logged onto the Internet] did not encounter recipes for pipe bombs or deranged rants about white supremacy"

I don' think rant is the word you meant although I could of course just be presuming that your reaction to the advertisement was somewhat similar to mine. I did not find the speech to be violent or extravagant, nor did I find it to incite anger or violence, but if you did please ellaborate.

This is not of course the topic which you meant to address, but it does point to an interesting question. If something is a paid advertiement, is it necessarily true that there is a clear distinction between editorial and advertising materials? Why do some feel it necessary to place ads that seem to be editorial or informative in nature? These kinds of "info ads" or "infomercials" sometimes have some socially redeeming value which is hard to reduce to crass commercialism. Certainly, Pastor Park would like people to believe that the New York Times endorses his opinions, but does anyone really think that this is true? He got you to read it anyhow, I think. Then again, maybe not.

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