A couple of readers found it suspicious that The Eagle carried a front-page story Monday about a panel of cardiologists advising against two popular cholesterol-lowering medications and recommending doctors instead rely more heavily on statin drugs. On Page 3 was a full-page ad for one of the better-known statins.
Both readers assumed we had timed the story to run in conjunction with the ad or vice versa. It may look that way, but there’s no connection between the news story selected for Page 1 and the ad that ran on Page 3. The ad was actually purchased on behalf of drug maker Pfizer by a national advertising firm that places such ads in many newspapers simultaneously. It was slated to run 8 times, and was published for the first time in The Eagle on Feb. 29.
After publication several times, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped the ad and required wording changes. Those were made, and the ads resumed running Monday.
In situations like this, our news editors don’t even know such an ad is in the paper until they see it in the morning, with rare exceptions. Ads on pages with news stories are seen by editors for the first time around 11 or 11:30 p.m. But full-page ads such as the Lipitor ad that ran Monday bypass the newsroom entirely.
The bottom line is that we don’t tie news stories to advertising. In features sections we occasionally sell advertising next to related articles (fashion stories, for example), but don’t do so with news stories. One reader said it was simply too hard to believe the front-page story and the ad showed up independent of each other. But that’s exactly what happened.