Publisher’s Perspective: How we screen editorial, ad submissions (Opinion)
Throughout last week, there were Internet posts and emails sent out that the Tribune (and me specifically) had refused to run a politically-based ad and that it was “media censorship at its best.”
So, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit and explain the process behind submissions. Whether you have submitted something in the past, or have been curious to know, it should be a good lesson in helping to understand some generalities around our practice.
Perhaps rule number one is that you have to, in fact, submit something before it can actually be reviewed and possibly refused. The post/ad in question was never sent to me for review, so therefore I never refused to run it, despite what the click bait headline might lead you to believe.
Can a news entity claim #fakenews on someone trying to spread misinformation? Regardless, for the sake of educational purposes, I will move on.
There is a distinction between advertising submissions and letters to the editor — mainly where and how they run. Advertising is confined into the space that is purchased and they can fit verbiage and design into that space as they choose (with some caveats that I will explain).
Letters to the editor are designated as such and will read as text, similar to most of the stories in any given edition. But, in either case, if there are specific mentions to statistics or statements made by certain individuals, we will ask for sources to back up the information.
This is especially important when it comes to political advertising. We have very distinct rules on what can and can’t be done in that space and we hold everyone to these rules — there are no favorites, no special treatment. Everyone is on equal footing.
Let’s say, hypothetically, the same people that put out the post/ad in question submitted a similar political ad and were asked to adhere to the rules by providing the information requested per our guidelines, and were given suggestions on how they could indeed run it with proper citations to clear up any confusion, but they refused to make any changes. Is that censorship? Is that the Tribune refusing to run it? Or is that taking your ball home and refusing to play the game because you don’t like the rules? It’s not about not running the information, but ensuring exactness for our readers.
Sometimes, some harsh things are said in ads. If those things are true, properly cited, and don’t contradict fact, you very well might see harsh ads or letters. Well, let’s be honest. We’ve all just been through months of getting pounded by presidential campaigns so we can all probably understand this.
With so much speak around fake news in today’s society, it’s more important now than ever to ensure what we are giving our readers is legitimate. Yes, we may miss something every now and then, but if we do, we’ll do our best to try and correct it.
As with all ads, submitted columns and press releases, we don’t guarantee that what is submitted will run, as-is or otherwise. There are countless reasons, but we will always work to ensure for whatever reason, what you are reading has been vetted.
As part of that vetted process, we’ll also ask for a name. Whether a letter to the editor, or a political ad citing the “paid for by” verbiage, it’s important for readers to know that they are backed by real people, committees or businesses.
Case in point: if you did happen upon the aforementioned post/ad, you will notice there is no mention of who wrote it or where it came from. How would you know any of it is legitimate?
Will there always be some sort of conspiracy theories or unfairness getting thrown around? Probably. I’d be willing to guess it will also get amplified with every coming election season. But if we can maintain our approach at least you’ll know we are trying our hardest to make sure what you are reading is factual. Isn’t that what news organizations are supposed to support their communities with anyway?
Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at email@example.com or 530-542-8046.
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