After almost two weeks, The New York Times has been under attack by conservatives — and some moderates — in the press for the advocacy ad personally criticizing General Petraeus. Yesterday’s critical column by the Times Ombudsman Clark Hoyt entitled ”Betraying Its Own interests” is sure to add kerosine to the partisan-feuled fires in the media and the blogosphere.
One week ago, The New York Post’s Charles Hurt reported that MoveOn.Org paid roughly $65,000 — the exact price was $64,575 — for an ad in the Times that usually costs north if a hundred thousand dollars. At the time, Abbe Serphos, director of public relations for The Times, declined to give a reason for the discount. Then, following Hurt’s article, Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, told Claudia Parsons of Reuters, ”We do not distinguish the advertising rates based on the political content of the ad.”
Clark Hoyt puts the pieces together:
”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. Advertisers who get standby rates aren’t guaranteed what day their ad will appear, only that it will be in the paper within seven days.”
Hoyt adds that Catherine Mathis told him late Thursday that The New York Times ”made a mistake.” The mistake being that a discounted advocacy ad could not pick and chose the day that it ran. The MoveOn.Org ad appeared on Monday — the day before the General’s testimony — less than seven days later.
Hoyt argues that the mistake lies in the personal nature — the ”Betray Us” — of the ad, which he would have demanded deleted to protect the times brand and draw a line in the sand at name-calling.
Charles Hurt reports that MoveOn.org will wire the $77,083 difference to the Times today. How much do you want to bet that this story is not over?
(image via salon)