Broward County, Florida’s main newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, is banning gun ads after being criticized about a front page ad for an upcoming Fort Lauderdale gun show.
Today’s front page included two headlines regarding mass shootings, including the shooter from the January 2017 Fort Lauderdale airport shooting pleading guilty and an article about Alyssa Alhadeff, a victim of the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who would have turned 15 yesterday.
At the bottom of the front page, there was a brightly colored ad with a yellow background and red text, promoting the upcoming Fort Lauderdale Gun Show on May 5 and 6.
This tweet from Politico’s Marc Caputo shows a digital image of the front page:
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) May 2, 2018
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was also among those killed at Stoneman Douglas, tweeted his displeasure about the ad.
Looks like the Sun Sentinel editor on this page failed. A story on the victims of gun violence and they put a gun coupon on the page. WTF!!! pic.twitter.com/JTEfnTo3s7
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) May 2, 2018
The Sun Sentinel replied with a statement from Publisher Nancy Meyer stating the paper “deeply regret[ted] placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning,” they had a policy against running “gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page,” and that they recognized that the “juxtaposition of certain ads and news stories can appear extremely insensitive.”
The statement concluded by mentioning that the Sun Sentinel “now has a moratorium on gun advertising.”
The Sun Sentinel's long-standing policy against these kinds of ads on our front page failed today. We've addressed the regrettable mistake to ensure it does not happen again. A statement from our publisher: https://t.co/qcbM11c3cp
— South Florida Sun Sentinel (@SunSentinel) May 2, 2018
The Miami New Times reported that “the paper’s layout systems allowed editorial staffers to see only the stories, not the ads, on the front page,” meaning that they approved the front page without seeing the content of any advertising. Many media companies take steps to insulate their advertising department from the news and editorial departments, to allow journalists to work without feeling influence or pressure from the commercial side of the business.
In this situation, however, this commonplace practice is being portrayed as something that allowed something negligent to happen. If the Sun Sentinel did indeed have a policy to avoid “controversial advertising” on their front page, then there presumably should have been some person responsible for reviewing and approving ad content.
But what about the decision to ban all gun advertising? It’s a temporary ban for now, but some (including Guttenberg) are urging the Sun Sentinel to make it permanent.
A reminder: Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school shooter, did not purchase his gun at a gun show. Neither did the Fort Lauderdale airport shooter.
The shooters at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Pulse night club in Orlando, San Bernandino, Las Vegas, and every other mass shooting I’ve searched also did not obtain their guns by purchasing them at gun shows. “If there is any case of a mass shooter purchasing his firearms at a gun show, I have not encountered it,” wrote National Review’s Jim Geraghty last October, coming to the same conclusion I did.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.