Public editor Clark Hoyt admitted in an editorial published today, conveniently on a day of the week when most Americans aren’t paying attention to news, that the New York Times violated its own written standards when it published MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” personal attack ad against General Petraeus:
But 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.
The Times says that MoveOn.org got the newspaper’s standby rate, which means that it can’t guarantee when the ad will run; however, MoveOn.org says otherwise, including that it got this favorable rate before without issue:
Eli Pariser, the executive director of MoveOn.org, told me that his group called The Times on the Friday before Petraeus’s appearance on Capitol Hill and asked for a rush ad in Monday’s paper. He said The Times called back and “told us there was room Monday, and it would cost $65,000.” Pariser said there was no discussion about a standby rate. “We paid this rate before, so we recognized it,” he said.
Of course, The Times now is passing the blame on to an unnamed salesperson:
…MoveOn.org paid what is known in the newspaper industry as a standby rate of $64,575 that it should not have received under Times policies. The group should have paid $142,083. The Times had maintained for a week that the standby rate was appropriate, but a company spokeswoman told me late Thursday afternoon that an advertising sales representative made a mistake.
Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, said, “We made a mistake.” She said 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. She added, “That was contrary to our policies.”
Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher of The Times and chairman of its parent company, declined to name the salesperson or to say whether disciplinary action would be taken.
Since when does an advertising salesperson have the authority to offer such a huge discount like this one? No word on who gave MoveOn.org the same cheap rates on their previous ads.
And take a look at Arthur Sulzberger’s ridiculous excuse:
Sulzberger, who said he wasn’t aware of MoveOn.org’s latest ad until it appeared in the paper, said: “If we’re going to err, it’s better to err on the side of more political dialogue. … Perhaps we did err in this case. If we did, we erred with the intent of giving greater voice to people.”
That’s complete bull, Mr. Sulzberger. You didn’t err “with the intent of giving greater voice to people”; you erred with the intent of giving greater voice to George Soros.