Are Political Ads in the Online Bee Fair?

Since I read the Bee online, I have noticed a trend that makes me a bit uncomfortable. The Bee imbeds political advertising in political articles.

Of course, this is smart targeting of voters. People who read articles about the election are more interested in politics than those who don’t. No brainer.

My problem is when the advertising is sold to candidates about whom the articles are written.

Take a look at an article today here. It reports on the debate between the Republican primary candidates for the 4th Congressional District, which will be won by either Tom McClintock or Doug Ose. While reading the article, the reader gets to listen to and watch series of advertisements for McClintock who is (of course) slamming his opponent, Ose. Readers have to turn off the ad if they do not want to watch it or mute it if they do not want to listen to it. Even if they do so, a big “McClintock for Congress” remains on the page.

Does anyone else think that this has the potential to become a bit shady? What if Ose wanted to purchase the same ad space for the same article? Does the Bee get to choose which candidate gets to purchase space on their political pages? Is it for sale to the highest bidder, or to the one who purchases the space first?

And, of course, the big question – What if a newspaper decides to favor one candidate over another and this decision somehow bleeds over into a favorable advertising advantage for one candidate over another? Yes yes, I know that editorial decisions and advertising decisions are supposed to be independent of each other, this is one of the golden rules of journalism. How can voters and readers the assured that this ethic is being followed if such advertising is allowed? Does the Bee have a policy about this? Are there ethical guidelines from a higher authority about this new realm of political advertising?

6 thoughts on “Are Political Ads in the Online Bee Fair?”

  1. The Sac Bee online has content beyond ads? Who knew!?! I haven’t checked the Bee online ever since they required registration to view “content.”


  2. Everybody remember to go check out the Dixieland Jazz Jubilee this weekend! Now with 15 percent more zydeco!


  3. I think the ads are auto-placed, like Google ads: a script pulls keywords from the page and places ads that match. Not that this makes it any less sketchy, though.


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