A two-page ad alleging that same sex marriages threaten our nation appeared simultaneously in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Times last week. The ad – and the reactions it has received – raise interesting questions.
News organizations have the right to turn down advertising, but they rarely do. As Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman noted in The Propaganda Model, one of the filters through which news passes is flak. Given the financial state of the industry, news organizations try to avoid controversies that will drain their fiscal and staff resources by having to defend their actions. In this case, turning down the ad may have generated more controversy than running it, especially for The New York Times. Whether accurate or not, the paper is viewed as liberal, so there may have been some reluctance to reject an ad from an organization espousing a conservative agenda, especially in light of the criticism The Times received for running a Move On ad – at a discounted rate — that was critical of General David Petraeus and the war in Iraq
Another filter that Chomsky and Herman identified is advertising. News organizations rely on the revenue it generates, so they are less likely to turn down ads. Once again, it all comes down to money.