Vasché: Changing times bring a change to the front page — ads

08/09/2009 1:52 AM

08/09/2009 4:01 AM

Over my dead body!

Like many of my fellow editors around the country, for years that was my reaction to proposals to put advertisements on the front page of the paper.

Well, I take it back!

By now you've probably noticed that today's front page is anchored by an ad. It's not the first time for The Bee, which years ago had them — but it is the first time in my 39 years here.

Some papers have had ads on their front pages for — well, just about forever. In recent years, more and more papers have followed suit. And now we join the club.

Call me a purist, for I've always considered A-1 to be the most special page in the paper, a piece of prime real estate reserved for the most important and interesting news and information of the day. I know that many readers feel the same way.

But call me a realist, too. These are challenging times — for individuals, businesses, governments and, yes, even news companies like mine. As such, it's important for this paper — which reaches more people in our region than any other individual media outlet — to offer new opportunities for our valued advertisers, many of whom are struggling to weather the economic storm.

Besides, when you think about it, ads are information, too. To be sure, they're distinctly different from news stories — except for the ones that try to look like real stories — but they offer information that consumers can use in their daily lives. Take today's debut ad from Raley's, for example. It highlights the grocer's special deal, and may guide your decision on where to shop and what to fix for dinner tonight.

While I confess that front-page ads weren't my first choice, I'm comfortable with the decision we've made. In fact, I think it's a smart move. And I'm confident that ads on Page A-1 won't in any way compromise our journalistic integrity.

For one thing, advertising doesn't dictate the content of our news sections; if anything, it's the opposite. For example, we don't put entertainment content in our entertainment section because there are entertainment ads; no, entertainment businesses want to advertise in the entertainment section because of the entertainment content.

For another, we go to great lengths to prevent advertisers from expecting special treatment in our news columns. When I talk with advertisers I try to stress three things: First, as the editor I greatly appreciate their business; after all, it funds the journalism we do. Second, while I value their business, the money they spend with us pays to have their message distributed to about 195,000 people on an average day and nearly 230,000 on Sundays — nothing more, nothing less. Third, whether they advertise a lot, a little or not at all, we will treat them the same as anyone else: honestly, fairly and professionally.

And for another, we have set some special guidelines for front- page advertising in terms of content and design. The front page is special, and the ads, like everything else on it, should be as well.

Whether you're a reader or advertiser, the nearly 150 men and women who work at The Bee in downtown Modesto are dedicated to providing you with news and information that is relevant, timely and useful.

On behalf of our staff, thanks for reading The Bee and modbee.com.

Vasché, The Bee's editor and senior vice president, can be reached at 578-2356 or at mvasche@modbee.com.

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