Judging a newspaper by its front-page ads | Bleader

Judging a newspaper by its front-page ads

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It might be that I'm just part of the sold-out zombie army of the young generation that is destroying the sacred journalistic institutions we hold dear, but I don't really see the big deal about the Tribune Company's decision to sell front-page ads. (The former print-page designer in me is apoplectic, but that's different.)

It's tempting to let the gesture lead to questions about journalistic integrity, but there's no logical basis for it. World Cup soccer isn't better because the players don't wear ads on their jerseys. American baseball isn't better than Japanese baseball for the same reason. Stock cars would look prettier without all the ads but they wouldn't go any faster.

It's actually illogical. If ads "cheapen" the front page (James O'Shea, LAT), make it unclean (Chicagoist), or somehow reduce the trust people have in the paper (Beachwood Reporter), what in the hell do they do to the rest of the paper? Are the Tribune Co. Web sites less legitimate because the homepages have ads? Maybe we Web editors should keep all the ads on the story pages. Please let me know when there's a consensus on this.

Will they make the Tribune Company's news holes smaller? Will they reduce the number of stories on the front page? If so, then the ads will impact the quality of the paper. There might be subtler things newspapers can do to approach the (overrated) problem of declining revenues, but I'm skeptical that this, of all things, is some kind of journalistic outrage.

If we're going to talk bad journalism, how about this line from the Tribune's self-coverage:

"Smith said Tribune will limit the front-page ads to advertisers looking to burnish their brand names with tasteful, full-color ads -- not those promoting price-off promotions or other blaring messages."

Yes, nothing tasteless like sales. Only good, classy, "image" ads for the Tribune Company. Now that's a qualitative difference I'm confused by.

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