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Newspaper opens to surprise
COUNTY LINE, BY DAVE LANGE
Newspaper opens to surprise
When I opened my fresh copy of our Chagrin Valley Times-Solon Times newspaper to Page 3 two weeks ago, I was surprised to see an attractive, full-page, color advertisement in support of building a new McDonald's restaurant in Solon.
I was pleasantly surprised, because businesses that spend their advertising dollars in our newspapers are expressing confidence in our ability to get their messages out to people in the community. Of course, their advertising dollars also represent the biggest portion of our company's income, which pays the bills, including editorial staff salaries. And the cost of a full-page color ad is substantial.
I also was not so pleasantly surprised, because the lead story on Page 1 in that same edition of the Solon Times was a comprehensive interview with Meloney G. Karos, the owner-operator of that very same McDonald's, and Dave Gnatowski, area construction manager for the restaurant chain. They made an earnest case for why Solon City Council should approve a site plan and 18 zoning variances in order to construct a new fast-food restaurant at the busy intersection of SOM Center (Route 91) and Aurora (Route 43) roads.
Our story continued on Page 2, right next to the advertisement in which Ms. Karos reiterated her plea for the approval and asked residents to show their support by telling their council representatives that the McDonald's relocation "truly is a good idea for Solon."
My consternation came, because I knew readers could conclude that there must have been a quid pro quo between the paid advertisement and the prominently played report giving the McDonald's side of the story. One speaker made that accusation during the public comments prior to City Council's verdict four days later. The council, incidentally, proceeded to reject the site plan by a 6-1 vote, mostly due to concerns about traffic safety.
People unfamiliar with newspaper operations would be surprised, skeptical, even astonished to be told that I, the editor, and Sue Reid, our Solon reporter, were surprised to see the McDonald's advertisement in that edition.
But it's true that one hand in the business of publishing reputable newspapers does not know what the other hand is doing. Our editorial and advertising departments essentially are separate operations. With the exception of ongoing advertising contracts, I do not know in advance which businesses are purchasing space in our publications each week. Our account representatives, who sell the advertising space, and other employees on the revenue-generating side of our operation do not know what stories are running in our newspapers until they come off the press.
Some people will never believe that President Barack Obama and the Democrats had nothing to do with causing the Great Recession. Some people will never believe that former President George W. Bush and the Republicans had nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
So I don't expect even more rational readers to take my word for it that our story on the McDonald's case for zoning exemptions had nothing to do with the McDonald's advertisement in favor of zoning exemptions.
But at least they could see for themselves that we also printed numerous articles that presented arguments against approving the site plan and so many zoning variances. We also editorialized one week earlier that the variances would be unjustified and that McDonald's surely could find a better location for its new restaurant.
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