The Times Union came under fire for an email pitch to Black-owned businesses on sponsoring its Black History Month coverage.
It’s not clear what the email said, or the precise nature of the complaints, but some of those who received the message felt it was inappropriate. How inappropriate? Well, so inappropriate that the paper published an A1 apology from publisher George Hearst. That’s very (very) inappropriate.
The Newspaper Guild — never fans of the TU’s management — described the situation as follows:
“The community criticized the Times Union for exploiting Black History Month to make a profit, and for charging Black business owners exorbitant prices to place advertisements in a predominantly white newspaper during a month meant to celebrate their community’s successes and legacies.”
Well, duh. That’s what they do.
Special content is not usually created because a media organization cares about a topic, but because they can sell it. Every time you see something above and beyond what they normally do, you can bet someone has asked, “Can we sell this?”
Look, newspapers, TV, and radio are, first and foremost, advertising delivery devices. It’s not uncommon for sales teams to target advertisers who may have an interest in a piece of content. A special section of the paper, a show on a certain topic, a series of stories — they can bring in money. Doing something about education? Try to sell some ads to colleges and universities. Special insert on health issues? Go hit up those deep-pocketed hospitals. Black History Month series? Offer it to black-owned businesses.
Whatever they said obviously touched a raw nerve, and this at a time when it’s more important than ever to be culturally sensitive.
Oh, by the way — I’d like to announce that I’m offering sponsorship opportunities for my St. Patrick’s Day coverage. After some drunken shenanigans, many of our readers might like to read blog posts about soda bread, potatoes, whiskey and ceili dancing. At least those who haven’t already been carted off in the Paddy wagon, that is. Contact me for more information.