For much of last week, The New York Times was defending itself against charges they gave a special rate for a controversial full-page ad to the liberal antiwar group, MoveOn.org.
The ad, with the headline “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?”, elicited outraged responses from President George W. Bush, Rudolph Giuliani and other Republicans, and more so when it was revealed that MoveOn was given a “standby rate” of $65,000. Times spokespersons said last week that this was a typical rate. But the fashion in which it was given, it turns out, was not typical.
Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote in his Public Editor column yesterday:
Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, said, “We made a mistake.” She said the advertising representative failed to make it clear that for that rate The Times could not guarantee the Monday placement but left MoveOn.org with the understanding that the ad would run then. She added, “That was contrary to our policies.”
And then there’s the somewhat baffling response of publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.: “If we’re going to err, it’s better to err on the side of more political dialogue. … Perhaps we did err in this case. If we did, we erred with the intent of giving greater voice to people.”