New tobacco ‘apology’ ads plan still excludes black media

George E. Curry, NNPA Columnist | 5/5/2014, 6 a.m.
A revised plan for major tobacco companies to purchase court-ordered ads to admit that they deliberately misled the public about ...

Under its latest plan, the tobacco firms propose advertising in only 13 of approximately 200 black newspapers: The Arizona Informant; The Denver Weekly News; The Inner-City News (Conn.), The Gary Crusader (Indiana); The Louisville Defender; Insight News (Minnesota); The St. Louis American; The Omaha Star; The Ohio City News; Black Chronicle (Nebraska); The Portland Skanner; The Seattle Skanner; and The Milwaukee Courier.

The tobacco companies proposed reducing what it called “major-circulation newspapers,” i.e. white dailies, from 29 to 27, eliminating the Boston Herald; the Florida Times-Union; the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; the Fresno Bee; the New York Post; the New York Sun [which has closed]; the Orlando Sentinel; the Palm Beach Post; the Sacramento Bee; the San Diego Union-Tribune; and the Tallahassee Democrat from the original list.

Added were: the Baltimore Sun; the Birmingham News; the Charleston Post & Courier; the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.; the Memphis Commercial Appeal; the Detroit Free Press; the New Orleans Picayune; the Newark Star-Ledger; and the News Journal in Delaware.

Remaining on both ad buy lists were: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; the Boston Globe; the Charlotte Observer; the Chicago Sun-Times; the Chicago Tribune; the Dallas Morning News; the Houston Chronicle; the Los Angeles Times; the Miami Herald; the New York Daily News; the New York Times; the Philadelphia Inquirer; the Richmond Times-Dispatch; the San Francisco Chronicle; the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times); USA Today; the Wall Street Journal; and the Washington Post.

The filing, called a joint praecipe, stated: “The parties believe that they have reasonably accommodated the amici’s requests to modify the proposed Consent Order. While it is impossible at this late juncture to accommodate all of the concerns raised by the recently-appearing amici, the revised proposed Consent Order changes, the geographic distribution of major-circulation newspapers to better reach African Americans, adds the largest African-American newspapers in 14 states, and allows defendants to run a portion of the corrective statements on television on any other channel network that will reach the same number of viewers and more African Americans. The parties believe that these adjustments should satisfy the concerns raised by the amici and by the Court at the Status Hearing.”

Campbell, chairman of the NNPA says that the black media remains deeply dissatisfied.

“What they have done is include some key cities that were ignored in the original proposal and assigned them to white papers while again bypassing local black newspapers that were subjected in the past to heavy tobacco advertising aimed at blacks,” he explained. “Tobacco companies can’t have it both ways. They can’t say we were effective advertising vehicles when they were peddling life-threatening cigarettes, but when it comes to correcting the public record under court order, they want to leave most of our papers on the sidelines.”

Campbell said the tobacco industry could advertise in every black newspaper in the nation without suffering any financial hardship.

“The tobacco companies considered us effective when they were targeting us for their products,” the NNPA chairman said. “If anything, with our stronger circulation, digital platforms and our use of social media, we are even more effective in del`ivering messages to African Americans today than we were when they willingly patronized us.”