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The Times they are a changin’

But some things stay the same …

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GOOD IDEA: Front page advertising.
  • GOOD IDEA: Front page advertising.

Last week, we posted news of an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette section shake-up on the Times' Arkansas Blog. The Dem-Gaz is folding the Friday “Weekend” section into the Thursday “Style” section. It's likely a cost-saving move, although higher-ups at the paper would not say for sure.

Frank Fellone, the deputy editor at the Dem-Gaz, said simply, “I think these are interesting times, and I think every organization is dancing as fast as it can.”

One of our readers commented on the post, “Next thing you know they'll be putting ads on their front page. Oh, wait ...” Apparently it was a shock to some that the Arkansas Times, for the first time in the paper's history, ran an ad on the front cover of last week's issue, a practice that will continue.

Max Brantley, the editor of the Times, replied to the post, “Good idea. It works for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer and many others. Looks like it will produce premium ad revenue for the Arkansas Times, too.”

Brantley says he sees no real difference in ads on the front cover of a print-edition and the more ubiquitous, and numerous, ads found on any newspaper's homepage. But to some it seems like selling out. 

“We thought about this a long time,” Brantley says. “I just couldn't see what was being sold out, particularly in a world that may soon be all on-line anyway … But perhaps I'm only rationalizing.”

I can be a little old-fashioned and somewhat crotchety at times and I'll admit as someone who not only writes for but reads this paper, seeing the ad was somewhat of a surprise. I kind of agree with those that say it takes the “alt” out of the alt-weekly, but, hey, at least I have a job, right?

 

Earlier this year, a report in the Reader, a weekly newspaper serving Omaha, Lincoln and Council Bluffs, Neb., caught my eye. The article told of a Nebraska couple that got hitched. They wanted to announce their marriage in the Omaha World-Herald, their hometown newspaper. The editors at the paper decided that the announcement might offend advertisers or subscribers and refused to print it. The groom, Marc Volenec, replied, “Well, I've been subscribing for 12 years.”

The reason the ad was refused was because there were two grooms. Marc Volenec and Peter Hamel were married in California in late 2008. They knew the marriage would not be accepted by the state of Nebraska, but didn't expect the announcement to be rejected as well.

I wondered if our own daily paper had ever run into the same situation. I called Dem-Gaz bridal page editor Cary Jenkins. She said the paper had never received such a request. Deputy Editor Frank Fellone said there was no set policy, but in the event that a homosexual couple requested an announcement, its publication would likely depend on whether or not that marriage was recognized by the state.

Since the answer to that is no, it's safe to say the chances of publication are slim.

“There's also the audience factor,” Fellone says. “Some of our readers would happily accept that and others would not. If we got such a request we would consider it seriously.”

Fellone said one option would be to buy an advertisement. Wedding announcements in the Democrat-Gazette are free. I guess some marriages are more equal than others. 

 

Papers are looking for new sources of revenue, and the way our society thinks about marriage is going through some growing pains, but there's one thing that will never change no matter who is in charge: politics as usual.

The Politico reports that the National Republican Trust Pac is now airing ads against Blanche Lincoln and three Republican senators that voted for Obama's stimulus package. The group, which aired attack ads featuring Jeremiah Wright in the final days of the presidential election, is using the same ol' tired GOP scare tactics. They trot out all the usual suspects, saying the bill “won't work,” “is filled with pork,” and gives money to criminals and groups like ACORN. The ads also refer to the stimulus package as the “Obama-Reid-Pelosi plan.” I still haven't figured out the boogey-man tactic. Tell me again why we're supposed to be afraid of a middle-aged woman and one of the biggest Poindexters in the Senate.

 

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