Golden Gate? ‘SF Chron’ Defends First Front-Page Ad

By: E&P Staff

Adding to a quickly advancing trend, the San Francisco Chronicle published its first front-page ad today. Unlike many other cases, it is not a narrow strip along the bottom but a chunky box in the lower right corner, six inches across and five inches deep. The advertiser is Pacific Gas & Electric.

Editor Phil Bronstein defended the decision to place an ad on Page One, saying it would not affect news coverage and is just part of the expanding effort to draw revenue.

“These are the times we live in,” he said. “We had discussions about it. It is a hard case to make that you shouldn?t do this as a concept when you are in as much of a financial hole as we are. My feeling is that if it doesn’t change what you do, you ought to be judged on the kind of journalism you do.”

The editor said the paper had received “a couple of calls” today about the change, but nothing significant so far. He had no specifics on what the callers had said.

Bronstein cited other newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, that have made similar decisions. “No one’s complaining at the Journal for all of the time they have had front page ads.” he said. “It’s not like [Page One advertiser] PG&E is sitting in on news meetings.”

When asked about the historic tradition of keeping front pages only for news, Bronstein said tradition is not always the best reason to continue something. “Sacred cows are sometimes very valid to hold sacred,” he said. “And sometimes you have to question why they are sacred.”

The Chronicle printed a note from Publisher Frank Vega on page two today. It opens: “Today, The Chronicle begins publishing front page ads. Our advertisers recognize the value of The Chronicle brand, our audience and the priority of delivering key messages to you, our reader. In the recent past, newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and USA Today have all announced their willingness to accept advertising in prominent positions. The Chronicle is committed to delivering to you important news, information and advertising in a variety of new and engaging ways.”

Earlier this year the paper started printing front-page ads in its local news “B” section.

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