MoveOn.org Will Pay Full Price for Discounted Ad

July 7, 2008 - 7:32 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The New York Times on Sunday admitted it should not have given a liberal advocacy group a discount rate for its controversial advertisement attacking Gen. David Petraeus as "General Betray Us."

In a column entitled, "Betraying Its Own Best Interests," New York Times Public Editor (ombudsman) Clark Hoyt wrote that the newspaper, in running the MoveOn.org ad for the "standby rate" of $64,575, violated its own written standards.

"I think the ad violated The Times's own written standards, and the paper now says that the advertiser got a price break it was not entitled to," Hoyt wrote.

Hoyt said MoveOn.org should have been charged MoveOn.org's political action committee $142,083 to run the full-page ad on Sept. 10 -- the first day of Gen. Petraeus' testimony before Congress.

Hoyt noted that the newspaper earlier insisted that the standby rate was appropriate -- "but a company spokeswoman told me late Thursday afternoon that an advertising sales representative made a mistake."

Advertisers who get standby rates are not guaranteed what day their ad will appear, but according to Hoyt, MoveOn.org called the times on Friday "and asked for a rush ad in Monday's paper."

The Times' salesperson told MoveOn.org there was room in Monday's edition and gave the rate as $65,000, Hoyt said.

Hoyt wrote in the column that Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for the Times, told him that the price was "a mistake," and that "the advertising representative failed to make it clear that for that rate the Times could not guarantee the Monday placement but left MoveOn.org with the understanding that the ad would run then...That was contrary to our policies."

What about Giuliani's ad?

MoveOn.org Political Action issued a news release on Sunday, saying it would pay what should have been the going rate.

"Now that the Times has revealed this mistake for the first time, and while we believe that the $142,083 figure is above the market rate paid by most organizations, out of an abundance of caution we have decided to pay that rate for this ad. We will therefore wire the $77,083 difference to the Times tomorrow (Monday, September 24, 2007)."

MoveOn.org insisted that Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani also should pay the corrected fee for the full-page ad he ran on Sept. 14 -- for the same discounted rate given to MoveOn.org.

Giuliani's full-page ad in the Sept. 14 New York Times criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for changing her position on the Iraq war and for refusing to condemn MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad. "Who should America listen to...A decorated soldier's commitment to defending America, or Hillary Clinton's commitment to defending MoveOn.org?" Giuliani's ad read.

MoveOn.org on Sunday aid it had no reason to question what it thought was the newspaper's "usual and normal charge" for the ad.

"MoveOn continues, of course, to stand by the content of the advertisement and to urge citizens and their elected representatives in the Congress to focus on the continued dishonesty of the Bush Administration and the American blood and treasure being lost in a war for which the Administration has no exit strategy," the group said.

"Certainly that issue is more worthy of the attention of the electorate and the media than the mistake of an advertising representative or the wording of an advertisement."

For many conservatives, however, the liberal New York Times -- by extending a discounted rate to a liberal advocacy group -- was endorsing MoveOn.org's political agenda -- in this case, a personal attack on the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Public Editor Hoyt addressed that concern in Sunday' column, saying the New York Times should be concerned about "the protection of its brand as a newspaper that sets a high standard for civility."

Hoyt said the newspaper's director of advertising acceptability should have demanded the elimination of the General Betray Us phrase -- "a particularly low blow when aimed at a soldier," Hoyt wrote.

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