September 18, 2011 26 Comments
Lonely Post-Apocalyptic Edition
September 21, 2010 23 Comments
I provided a slightly different version of the comment below in response to their ruling, which cites me by name, and I post it here for posterity’s sake:
I’m disappointed that the staff at the Times Union is unable to make a distinction between political and commercial advertisements. They are different beasts, legally, in a wide variety of ways, and it did not seem unreasonable to me that they might recognize that difference, and create different placement parameters within their ad-server system.
As I’ve noted before, at bottom line, there’s no law preventing me, as a nonprofit executive, from telling you that I or my organization do business with a particular company and that said company does well by us (unless I am illegally directing my agency’s activities to benefit my own or my family’s interests, of course), but there are laws preventing me from publicly endorsing partisan political candidates.
In the worst case scenario, my organization could lose its tax-exempt status over such public, partisan political endorsements made by me. That’s a big deal.
Yes, sophisticated readers will no doubt understand that a political advertisement next to my name and picture here doesn’t necessarily mean that I endorse the candidate. But . . . the reality of the situation is that my image and my name and my likeness are, in fact, supporting that candidate, indirectly, if the candidate gets some name recognition from my readers. And I don’t consider that an acceptable situation.
If someone came along and put signs for a political candidate in my yard, and I left them there, then I would accept some culpability if someone got confused and thought that I was endorsing a specific candidate over another. Same concept applies here: the Times Union advertising department came and stuck signs on my blog lawn, and since I can’t remove them, I have to move instead.
As a bigger, less personal issue, I also believe that unpaid bloggers, in general, are closer to editorial letter writers than they are to journalists, so even when they don’t have the employment constraints that I do, I consider it wrong to put partisan political advertisements on their pages, just as it would be wrong to put partisan political advertisements on the editorial pages of the print version of the newspaper.
As some have noted, these may be extreme or overly-conservative positions on my part. Perhaps they are, but as head of a nonprofit corporation, I feel that I must always take the most professionally conservative positions on such matters to protect my organization, my constituents, my family and myself.
Which is why I am leaving the Times Union as a blogger, a reader, and a long-time print subscriber. This is no longer a business venture that I wish to support in any way, shape or form.
For what it’s worth, I have formally requested that the Times Union remove all vestiges of my blog from its website, but they’ve decided that it’s more important to feed the advertising beast than it is to honor such requests, and so my work will be held hostage there, against my will, in perpetuity.
I take comfort in knowing that karma’s a bitch . . .
September 21, 2010 5 Comments
I’m still seeing a variety of paid political advertisements swirling on my personal, unpaid, community Times Union blog page this morning, which I consider more and more inexcusable every time I view them.
And not only am I seeing them here, but I’m also seeing them on a wide variety of other community blogger pages as well, not to mention the ostensibly independent and non-partisan Capitol Confidential.
That’s just wrong, and it should have been immediately recognized as wrong and corrected when the point was raised, if editorial integrity was the guiding principle here.
But it’s not, which isn’t really news to any of us, I suppose.
I’ve never particularly liked having advertisements on my blog here, but I tolerated it all these years because, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t really care, and I don’t think it really matters, where you buy your tires, or where you send your kids to school, or where you get your prescriptions filled, or where you do your banking. So I didn’t really mind my words being used to pimp those products.
But I do care passionately about the political process, and I do care passionately about who we elect to serve us, and I will not allow my words to be co-opted for partisan political purposes. Period.
So it is with no small amount of regret that I announce that I will be taking my blog elsewhere and no longer posting new content here at the Times Union.
Wherever I end up, I’ll point my own domain there, so all you have to do to find me is just my name with a dot com behind it: http://www.jericsmith.com
While I’m not a rallying kind of person, I’d ask all of my fellow community bloggers to consider the most odious political candidate you can imagine, and then imagine how you will feel when that candidate places an advertisement on your blog. Are you willing to stay here and risk that? Are you willing to allow your words to be a magnet that might expose your readers to vile politicians?
Food for thought. But if you reach the same conclusion I did, I can tell you that it’s pretty easy to migrate a blog, and I’ll be happy to help you do it.
September 21, 2010 1 Comment
I just logged in quickly to my Times Union blog this afternoon to check for blog comments that needed approving, and was absolutely appalled and dismayed to discover that my page was filled with scrolling advertisements for a particular political candidate, top banner, right block, the whole shooting match.
Regardless of whether or not I intend to vote for this particular candidate, I want no part of unintentionally being put in a position of supporting any political candidacy, while I’m providing content in an unpaid capacity to the Times Union.
(For the record, I’m registered in the primary this candidate is contesting, so please understand that this isn’t me having a meltdown about seeing advertisements for an opposing political position on my blog. But the candidate’s campaign certainly didn’t help its cause with me, because I despise pushy and inappropriately-placed political advertisements, and the candidates who allow them to occur. I do not offer this as advice or endorsement to anyone reading this post. Make your own decisions, please).
I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit corporation that works under contract to a State-funded University, need you be reminded, and I do not wish, even indirectly, to be perceived as personally violating the Legislative and Political Activities Test that my organization itself must pass. I will not allow my personal blog to be used as a political platform. For anyone.
No, I’m not a chump, and I understood that when I signed up to be a Times Union blogger, I accepted the gift of media exposure and promotion, at the expense of having advertising associated with my writing, often for commercial organizations that I do not personally support, or favor, or even like.
But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a paid political advertisement here, and I am hopping, fuming, boiling mad about it. Business is business, but politics is personal.
I consider this to be an unethical advertising placement, Times Union advertising department, that turns my willfully apolitical and centrist blog into a tool of someone’s campaign, and I want no part of that.
So I won’t be posting here again until eyou remove the offending advertisement, and commit not to putting any further political advertisements on my blog.
So please ignore my blog, regular readers, and any advertisements placed here, until you see another topic showing up in the portal page. There won’t be anything new here from me until then, and I’d prefer you not be exposed to paid political advertising here.
Thanks for making my 10th anniversary of blogging so very special, Times Union advertising department, by reminding me how commerce can so readily crush creativity, without a thought.