Polybag Ad Flap In Miami p. 34

By: STACY JONES PAPER OR PLASTIC? As far as the Miami Herald is concerned, it's paper ads only for religious institutions after a very public misunderstanding over a church's attempt to use the Herald's polybag advertising option.
Polybags, the plastic bags used to wrap home- delivered newspapers, are offered by the Herald as advertising space. However, the newspaper refused to distribute the church's ads on the plastic bags. The church ad promoted a special Easter service and included the church's address and service times.
"It would be insensitive to many people of another faith to go outside their doors in the morning, expect their newspaper, and be greeted by a bag in behalf of another faith," explained Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr.
Lawrence offered to run the ads in the Herald, free of charge, as a show of good faith, saying he "had no objection whatsoever to running this ad within the paper."
"The question is not running the ad," said Lawrence. "It's if a polybag is an appropriate place to advertise faith."
The Herald's problems were set in motion in February when the Jesus Fellowship church entered into an advertising agreement with the paper for two poly-bag ads to appear on March 25 and March 30. One hundred thousand polybags with the ad were printed.
Lawrence said the ad was accepted by an ad sales person who "did not do anything wrong because there wasn't any policy in place."
That is as far as Jesus Fellowship's ad got. On March 21, church pastor Rick Patterson said he received a call from a Herald sales representative who informed Patterson that the ad had been rejected because it was "offensive."
Jesus Fellowship then went on the offensive, calling in its own legal counsel. Also, during its Friday night service, which is broadcast on the Internet via RealAudio, the church told listeners about the ad snafu with the Herald. A summary of the incident was sent by e-mail to those on the church's mailing list, asking them to contact the Herald and voice their outrage.
Patterson met with Lawrence the next day to discuss the situation. At that meeting, Lawrence offered the free ads and said he would write an editorial explaining the Herald's position.
Jesus Fellowship accepted the offer and decided not to file suit against the Herald for breach of contract. Though, that "doesn't mean we won't in the future," said Bill Greene, staff minister in charge of the church's Internet ministry.
In response to the confrontation with Jesus Fellowship, the Herald is working on a policy that prohibits religious and political advertising on poly-bags.
"It's intrusive," said Lawrence. "To be covering the newspaper with the toutings of one particular faith. I feel the same about political ads."
While the Herald took a hard line against the church, it did allow political ads to appear on the polybags during the 1996 election year. Lawrence called it an "ad department experiment" that will not be repeated.
"It's incongruous to recommend one candidate and use another candidate on the polybag," said Lawrence.
Jesus Fellowship has one more challenge waiting for the Herald, said Greene. It plans to try and advertise, on polybags, the church bookstore.
"The Herald's main thing was not selling advertising to institutions of faith," said Greene. "They said they would only take retail ads. Well, our bookstore is retail.
"We'll see if they're being true to their word. I don't think they will," he added.
?("It would be insensitive to many people of another faith to go outside their doors in the morning, expect their newspaper, and be greeted by a bag in behalf of another faith.") [Caption]
?(? David Lawrence Jr., Miami Herald publisher) [Photo & Caption]
? Web Site:http://www. mediainfo.com
?copyright Editor & Publisher- April 26, 1997.


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