|No missing this ad. It muscles the homepage content out of the way.|
|After the huge banner contracts, you can see a second political ad. The positioning of this one bothers me less, but the fact it's there is still open for scrutiny.|
I'm really not sure how I feel about this. There's a small part of me that understands that times are changing. If newspapers can put ads on the once-sacred front page of their print editions, why should a political ad on the homepage of a news site be any different?
As I said, though, that's a small part of me. Mostly I just thought it grotesque, and several days removed I still feel nauseous about the idea. I glanced at a few other local media outlets that have relevancy for me (the Times Union of Albany, the Ithaca Journal and the Press & Sun Bulletin of Binghamton), and the only other place I saw a political advertisement was on the IJ homepage (sorry, no picture). I noticed it wasn't for a specific candidate, though, and seemed to be paid for by a particular party or political affiliation.
Look, I've long argued that total objectivity in the media is a myth (especially in the fractured and niche information ecosystem of this day and age), but what sort of message does a giant political ad send readers of a news site when the smiling mug of a candidate greets them (and pushes the real content they're looking for downward for 10 seconds) as soon as they navigate to the homepage? Not a good one. Now combine the fact that this particular candidate was endorsed by the newspaper. Can you see why I think this sort of action inadvertently opens a door and invites questions about the credibility and objectivity of a media outlet?
I should note that I'm speaking broadly, and only citing The Saratogian because that's the example I have. My hunch is that plenty of other papers across the country did this too.
This isn't the same argument as to whether or not newspapers should make political endorsements -- a valid discussion to have, but one that is far more nuanced. Big, obtrusive ads on a homepage? At best, it's tacky; at worst, it cripples the integrity of the brand image.
I'd love for you to answer the question I pose in the title of this post and let me know if I'm off base in my thinking.