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Why we won’t publish homophobic ads

Why we won't publish homophobic ads
Spoof ad by Chase Joint via Twitter
written by Dylan Matthias
October 14, 2011 1:05 pm

The mystery explained

Spoof ad by Chase Joint via Twitter

Spoof ad by Chase Joint via Twitter

Ah, Twitter. There’s a lot of stuff out there on Twitter. When you force people to condense their thoughts into 140 characters or less, the byproduct is an awful lot more being said. While that’s good for communicating, it’s not always good for clear communicating. Alas, the Twitterverse got the story of the homophobic ad and the Gazette quite wrong.

For the sake of clarity, here’s what happened: Charles McVety, or the institution he’s a part of, which represents Canadian “family values,” sent a personalized press release to our copy editor, Erica Eades.

Unfortunately for McVety, Erica is our copy editor because she has a strong sense of what is libellous and unfit for publication. Being the conscientious person she is, she politely told McVety to never email her again. The Gazette applauds Erica for standing up for the paper and for journalistic integrity.

The same can’t be said of the National Post, sadly. They received the ad, and while they’re not sure how it happened (tsk, tsk), it made it all the way to their paper and out into the wider world. Cue the Twitterverse.

We didn’t receive the ad – that’s what Twitter initially got wrong – so we didn’t really reject it. That said, Erica did the right thing, and we would have rejected it outright had any of our staff received it.

All of the ads in the Gazette are reviewed several times. First, the ad has to be sold by our ad manager, Aaron Merchant. Our Business Manager Ben McDade usually has his eye on everything we sell and would catch any problems. Then the ad is laid out by our Art Director, Jonathan Rotsztain. The whole staff checks everything before the paper is put to bed, and then I check everything once more after that. So the silly stuff gets filtered.

In as long as I’ve been at the paper we haven’t, to my knowledge, ever nixed an ad for decency reasons. We do reserve the right to do so, just so we can deal with stuff like this. Although we’re a student paper, we are open to any and all advertisers and try to treat all our clients with the utmost respect. But we won’t be taken advantage of, either.

It’s also important to understand that all of our editors get a lot of press releases every day. Press releases are easily demonized as marketing muck, but they can be useful, too. Most organizations have a media department issuing releases, so they can be a good way to flag upcoming events and find opportunities to talk to people that might not have otherwise existed. They don’t replace good, old fashioned digging though, and press releases always have an agenda.

The Gazette doesn’t have a formal policy on press releases. We generally do appreciate getting them, but we act on only a very small percentage of what we receive. It stands to reason, though: if someone sends us something really awful, we’ll block that person or organization.

The Gazette is a student paper, first and foremost. We offer advertisers a solid student readership and the best on-campus distribution. We try, when possible, to publish student ads, too, and we’re working on ways to get society events on our website (anyone who knows of a good, high-powered Calendar-making plug-in for WordPress could send us one of those nifty press releases). We may be students, but we’re not naive. We know what our readers will and will not stand.

What McVety and his organization sent us didn’t pass the smell test. Our readers would have hated it and we would have hated publishing it. So we didn’t. It’s a pity the National Post didn’t do the same thing.

Editor’s Note: The Gazette would like to thank OpenFile.ca and Bethany Horne for picking up on this story, reporting it fully and completely, and for helping clarify it when Twitter got a hold of the story.

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