On Oct. 17, the Seattle Times started running free political ads for state gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna and for a Yes vote on Referendum 74 on gay marriage. Although the newspaper had previously editorially endorsed both campaigns, in an Associated Press story, Alan Fisco, executive vice president for revenue and new products at the newspaper, said there is no connection between the ads and the news side of the business. However, more than 100 news workers at the paper protested the ads in a letter to publisher Frank Blethen, saying the free ads compromised the newspaper’s integrity and their ability to do their jobs. The ads have continued.
Perhaps proving management’s claim that editorial personnel have absolutely no connection with the advertisements, copy in each of the first two McKenna ads have grammatical errors.
The first ad states, “As Attorney General Rob McKenna demonstrated that the interests of all Washington citizens comes first.” A comma after “Attorney General” would be nice.
The second ad states, “Combined with better education and workforce training, this (McKenna’s jobs plan) will enable small business to thrive creating new jobs where they are most needed.” Again, a comma after “thrive” would provide grammatically correct entry into the subordinate clause starting with “creating,” permitting readers to catch their breath.
The last line of the body copy in this ad says, “When it comes to jobs and support for small business there’s a difference worth your vote.” Maybe we should just send the Seattle Times advertising department copywriters a box full of commas. They could use some. In the sentence above, one is would be helpful between “business” and “there’s.”
The Times claims both ad campaigns (allegedly worth $75,000 apiece in services and advertising space) are part of an effort to prove the effectiveness of newspapers for political advertising. If these heavy-handed, copy-heavy, grammatically incorrect ads show what the Times can do, good luck with that.
Running these ads is a bad idea for good journalism. But if the Seattle Times publisher insists, the least he can do is hire an editor.