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Handling controversial ads/content QT51

Student media should not discriminate against advertising based on students’ personal beliefs.

For example, students should attempt to include advertisers from multiple perspectives. According to the federal court decision in Yeo v. Lexington, student editors have the right to reject advertisements and school administrators are not legally responsible for advertising decisions students make.

A potential advertiser proposes an ad for your student media concerning a controversial product or service — tanning salons, for example. It’s money, but you also know recent studies show the possible harmful effects of such tanning.

How do you handle the request? What obligations do you have in terms of social responsibility, ethics and health-related issues. Likewise, you may be presented with an ad for an organization many in your staff or student body do not support.

The best path to resolve those questions and face the issues is to prepare for them ahead of time.

Guidelines: Students should not discriminate against advertising based on their personal beliefs. For example, students should attempt to include advertisers from multiple perspectives. According to the federal court decision in Yeo v. Lexington, student editors have the right to reject advertisements and school administrators are not legally responsible for advertising decisions students make.

Question: Should there be a point when media don’t accept ads?

Key points/action: A potential advertiser proposes an ad for your student media concerning a controversial product or service — tanning salons, for example. It’s money, but you also know recent studies show the possible harmful effects of such tanning.

How do you handle the request? What obligations do you have in terms of social responsibility, ethics and health-related issues. Likewise, you may be presented with an ad for an organization many in your staff or student body do not support.

The best path to resolve those questions and face the issues is to prepare for them ahead of time.

Stance: While there are no quick and easy answers, you can build ethical room for discussion by anticipating the issues.

Reasoning/suggestions: First, is it a right v wrong situation? That’s easy. If a right v right ethical situation, then you should have a process of weighing issues.

Develop a set of criteria best suited to your school and its communities. Whose values are the most crucial to the communities? Harm no one? Free expression? Credible information and from which point of view?

Our recommendation is to develop an ethical guideline outlining your key values and then develop a checklist to help students through the decision-making process.

Resources: SPLC Advertising FAQs

Yeo v. Lexington

SPRC: Advertising

Related: These points and other decisions about mission statement, forum status and editorial policy should be part of a Foundations Package  that protects journalistically responsible student expression.

 

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