Denver Post Pimps Advertiser on Sunday Page One

The concept of advertising on the front page of the Denver dailies isn't entirely foreign; note the use of irritating stickers that are regularly affixed to their covers these days -- a topic explored in this October 2007 Message column. But the Sunday, May 25 Denver Post took up-front advertising to a new level via an odd item included in a banner that ran just beneath the paper's name. The blurb read: "Comic Relief: Look Inside the King Soopers Ad For Your Favorite Funnies."

Why was this unusual? Because this element of the page, like everything else on the Post cover, has always been controlled by the editorial department, whose supervisors are charged with making decisions based on news value -- not on the desires of business siders, who undoubtedly loved the idea of a major advertiser getting a prominent attaboy for making a big buy.

Granted, a case can be made that this mention provided a service to readers, who might have had difficulty finding the Post comics inside the King Soopers-oriented casing due to the wad of ads that still accompany the Sunday edition. But in my view, the argument's a weak one. For years, the Rocky Mountain News comics that are included in the Sunday Post have been wrapped inside an ad for Carpet Mill stores that prevents confusion with assistance from a banner printed on one side of the page. It reads, "Look inside for today's full-color COMICS!" and features depictions of Dagwood Bumstead, Zonker Harris from "Doonesbury" and Satchel, the canine co-star of "Get Fuzzy." The same thing could have been done for the King Soopers wrap -- and even if the company objected, the front-page blurb could have been written in a way that avoided direct mention of an advertiser. After all, there was nothing new about the comics page itself. The only change involved a purchase made by King Soopers execs, who the folks in sales obviously want to keep happy considering the extremely soft ad-sales environment for daily newspapers.

Of course, this weird line-crossing doesn't mean we'll soon be seeing major stories accompanied by blurbs that scream, "This breaking news item brought to you by Dealin' Doug." But neither does such a prospect seem beyond the realm of possibility. -- Michael Roberts

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