Tuesday, May 18th, 2010...11:48

The Ad the FT Refused to Print

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Why? Libel. Apparently.

Instead of redrafting the Amnesty International press release and passing the words off as my own [really? that happens in the press?], here’s a link to the press release.

UPDATE: The ad is causing a bit of a stir in the FT newsroom. Emails are circulating amongst staffers, freelancers and management. In pre-Twitter days, if a newspaper decided to pull an ad, the public might’ve heard about it the following day. And only in hushed whispers. These days, its all over the Guardian and the Index on Censorship and the blogosphere like a rash. A pink one.

Could this be the rebirth of Amnesty – an emergence from the shadows of letter-writing and reactive press releases? Bear in mind that one of the blogs linked to above belongs to Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty’s Digital Campaigns manager. It was her post on Twitter that told the world about Lionel Barber’s paper and its decision to snip the ad.

Sources at the FT say that one of their advertising department’s main concerns was whether Amnesty had the indemnity to deal with any potential comeback for the advert. The division between editorial and advertisement at the Financial Times is strict. What those on the outside looking in can fail to see is that editors at the FT are more than too aware of what the repercussions of pulling advertising are. Especially when it is put up by Amnesty International and targeted to run on a specific date. Like many newspapers, they’ve pulled ads at the last minute. But not many have been of a campaigning and activist nature.

“We know how this can look bad,” an FT editor tells me. “But as far as we were concerned, it wasn’t editorially deliberate. The guys in advertising have a tight code of practise. I think the main concern was whether or not Amnesty could provide indemnity should a complaint arise.”

Is this an editor passing the buck? No. Is this a department in a newspaper being a bit over-cautious about the political nature of the advertising? More likely. When you go out on a limb [albeit a rather sturdy, low-hanging one in Amnesty’s case], you have to be prepared to deal with the consequences. The free publicity generated and garnered by the buzz is invaluable. The important question is, after the smoke clears, will you have understood any more about Shell, the Niger Delta and the inhumanity its people are subjected to in the interests of bloody, black gold?


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