We heard from many of you yesterday who were surprised by the printed ad on the bag in which your Post-Gazette was delivered. You spoke out, with passion and intelligence, about an advertisement that ran counter to our editorial board's endorsement in the presidential race. I want to thank all those who reached out to us and to say that, even in a moment of criticism, we are glad to know that so many readers take such a personal stake in their daily Post-Gazette.
Let me say a few words about our role in delivering both news and advertising. We have stringent policies to protect our readers against libelous and fraudulent material. We reserve (and have exercised) the right to reject any ad without explanation if we feel it is obscene or explicitly false and therefore doesn't deserve First Amendment protections.
First Amendment rights give newspapers their value. Without the right to free speech, citizens cannot be as well informed about their governments. Democracy needs lively forums for the exchange of ideas and, indeed, robust political debate. This exchange can come through editorials, columns, letters, blog posts and, yes, paid advertising. To stifle such discourse, or to deny a place in the discussion to those with whom we don't agree, would inject a bias into the debate. We believe that strong, fair, vigorous debate best serves you, our readers.
Like nearly all newspapers, the Post-Gazette offers advertising opportunities to the marketplace, regardless of the political views expressed in our editorials and regardless of the personal views held by some of our readers. The test of fairness we must meet is whether we are evenhanded in our consideration of such advertising, regardless of where it comes from, so long as it meets the newspaper's standards. As a result, the buyer of yesterday's ad on the controversial bag backed one presidential candidate, while on the same day paid advertising on our Web site supported the other major candidate.
Some readers said the ad on the home-delivery bag hurt the Post-Gazette's credibility. I understand your reaction, but I could not disagree more. A newspaper hurts its credibility when it massages its advertising to align with its editorial-page positions or some subjective view it has of how everyone should see the world. Our aim is to give our readers news, information and opinions so that they can make their own decisions and form their own judgments. Advertising, both in print and on the Web, can also help shape their thinking.
I sincerely appreciated the readers who took the time to contact us yesterday and make their views heard. To me, this was another sign of the healthy debate that a free society affords its citizens and another indication of the indispensable role of the Post-Gazette in this community. We need your passion and your voice. Our goal is to make room for the wide diversity of views that make this region what it is. Whatever your opinions, please continue to express them in our pages and at the polls.
Diana Block is president and co-publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.