The New Orleans Advocate has a new ad campaign out featuring local celebrities and politicians hand-delivering the newspaper to people at their homes.
I understand the idea is to bring clout to an up-and-coming competitor in one of the few American markets where daily newspapers are still dueling. And I understand the allure of using familiar faces in a city full of colorful characters.
But newspapers really shouldn't do this, insofar as politicians and business leaders are involved. It's one thing to see Drew Brees being stuck at ESPN's front gate while driving a float in a silly SportsCenter promo; it's another entirely to see the president of Jefferson Parish delivering the Advocate with a smile on his face. Newspapers are supposed to pledge allegiance only to the truth. Sometimes that truth is unflattering to newsmakers, and that's most often true of politicians. Many leaders often despise the newspaper for precisely that reason. At best, they understand that such scrutiny is the price of being a public servant. But when someone in that position goes so far as to actively endorse a publication, it makes you wonder how objective the publication truly is. The publication does itself no favors by making it official.
The Advocate has a reputation for solid journalism and has remained relatively healthy in an age of weak circulation. I worked there for two years as a stringer, covering council and school board meetings, and never thought twice about its integrity. As the Gambit notes, the newsroom and marketing arms of newspapers are separate. So what these spots appear to be is not so much questionable reporting or deliberate agenda marketing, but rather a misfire by the marketing team to get a leg up in the New Orleans newspaper wars.
It might very well work. But at what price?