Monday, June 6, 2016

Should a media company refuse one party's political ads?

BuzzFeed certainly has its faults, but on the upside it can occasionally surprise you. Maybe it's the occasional hit of well-written hard news, or a cartoonist giving Disney princesses their viscera back. Or in this case, banning an advertiser for its politics.

That's what just happened:
“Earlier today, BuzzFeed informed the RNC that we would not accept Trump for President ads and that we would be terminating our agreement with them,” [BuzzFeed CEO Jonah] Peretti said. “The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.”

Mr. Peretti went on to compare the ad ban to banning cigarette ads as "hazardous to our health."

But what is this, really? It comes off as principled, but it can also be seen as grandstanding. Banning ads based on the advertiser's politics, sight unseen, could also raise questions about media ethics.

But here's another point of view, expressed by a PR professional named Eliot Harrison in the comments:
If Trump's campaign has shown anything, it's that he hasn't needed advertising. He's getting millions of free advertising through the 100's of articles and stories written about him. THIS article is yet another one that will only serve to embolden his supporters.
Hmm... The man has a point. And since I am only adding to the problem here, perhaps I should stop writing now.

What's your take on this?


  1. Each time I see something like this about some specific way in which the press might be dabbling with unfairness in some way, the two words that shoot through my mind are: "Fox News." They are a complete sham, and are allowed to exist. Whatever sense there ever was that news should be fair has been shattered; something like what buzzfeed is doing doesn't matter at all. There is no floor here to stand on; the press is not a special case at all. Because Fox News. They don't just tilt the news; they lie, often and egregiously.

    As to the specifics: this is about advertising. Not about the news at all. This is what we used to call the business side of the organization. Except, of course, that the reason given is more deep-seated than that: this candidate is a desperately wrong one on so many levels that it feels like an existential threat.

    My take, therefore, is that the more blinders that come off about Trump - the more the circus gets exposed - the better. Even if conventions have to crumble. Yes, if this were generalized to "all candidates" it seems unfair. But this kind of gloves-off approach is good for the Trump cycle; it's about solidarity.

    Might it come back to haunt us in a more 'normal' election cycle? It probably will. But I would go back to my first argument: Fox News is already there, has been for a long time, and is the real problem.

  2. A certain campaign's ability to get earned media is a real problem. Maybe we should post less about broke real-estate developers and more about, say, Disney princesses?