The vote is in. Readers have spoken. They hated the political advertising stickers that appeared on the paper’s front page on Sunday and Monday, the two days before Election Day.
The red-and-white sticker pasted onto the masthead of the paper urged voters in Maryland to vote no on Question 7, the ballot measure that will allow expansion of gambling in the Free State to include full-fledged casinos, not just slot machines, at several locations including a new venue at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
Voters approved the measure on Tuesday.
First of all, the sticker was confusing to some readers. Was this the official position of The Post, opposing Question 7?
Well, no, it wasn’t. The editorial board endorsed Question 7 on Oct. 23.
Other readers found it just annoying, tacky and beneath the Post brand. Virginia readers, who didn’t have Question 7 on their ballots, were just bewildered.
Todd Dawson of Germantown wrote:
“I was outraged to find a political sticker plastered onto the front page of my Washington Post on Sunday.
“When did you sell yourselves out to be a bulletin board for your political opinions? What happened to the Op-Ed page? Isn’t that enough? You have to beat us over the head with stickers on your paper? Are you trying to lose subscribers? You’ve just about succeeded with this one.”
Rob Smith of Virginia wrote this:
“Peel off stickers on the masthead? Bad enough when it’s for a local dentist on the community paper. Terrible, and frankly hard to believe, when it’s for a political issue on the masthead of The Washington Post — and a ballot question not even relevant for us in Virginia. Another new low for the Post.”
And Cynthia Junker of Dunkirk chimed in, too: “I find the stick-on adds about ‘no’ on Question 7 pasted over The Washington Post headliner on the front page of the newspaper to be misleading and discouraging. First, on he surface, it leads a reader to believe that this is an opinion or position of The Washington Post newspaper. I’m sure the advertiser wants us to think that.
“Why would you undermine your opinion of October 23rd this way?” Junker continued. “Second you are disgracing and defacing your proud and very widely respected name — The Washington Post — allowing the placement of an advertisement directly over your banner. Shame on you. I hope it does not continue after the election.”
The Post has been using these A1 stickers for some time now for commercial advertisers — many if not most newspapers around the country do this as well — but this is the first time I’ve seen it used for a political ad.
Kris Coratti, spokeswoman for The Post, said the paper accepts all kinds of political and advocacy advertisements for placement throughout the paper, and this isn’t much different.
“We give wide latitude to advertisers to publish their messages, and political advertising has long been acceptable, subject to certain standards,” Coratti wrote in an e-mail response. “We do not accept or reject political or issue advertisements (on A1 or any other page) based on our editorial position on any given subject. We require clear labeling to avoid confusion with our editorial content, and we seek to avoid any implication that The Post supports or endorses the political advertising or advertiser.
“We welcome reader feedback that the Question 7 stickers caused some confusion and will review our internal standards in light of these comments and revise them if necessary.”
I agree with the readers on this one. Over the past year or so, readers have objected in principle to these kinds of stickers for commercial purposes. I let that one slide because I know The Post needs all the advertising revenue it can attract. And, readers have become used to them; complaints about that use have recently leveled off.
But I think using them for political ads during election season is a bridge too far. It’s confusing, misleading and tacky, and I think it hurts the Post brand.