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The Marketing Wizards Behind the Bitter Community Paper Ads

A few days ago, I posted about an unusual ad that appeared in my local subway stop. The ad featured a kid with a broken leg hobbling down a hospital corridor on crutches. The copy read: “Football? Nope. Broken sidewalks. Broken sidewalk stories won’t win us a Pulitzer, but they could keep you out of the hospital. Your Community Paper. Told ya.” (Copyranter suggested an alternative headline: Buy Our Paper or We’ll Break the Kid’s Other Leg.) The ad was mysterious because the sponsor didn’t see fit to identify itself. As far as I could tell, it was just a big anonymous passive aggressive note in my subway station. The other day, my partner Darcy spotted the submerged blue truck ad. (Best line: “Sometimes people even listen to us.”) I’m happy to tell you that, exemplifying the best tradition of local reporting, J. David Goodman of the New York Timescracked the case of the mystery ads.

Goodman reports that the ad is part of a $4 millionstatewide advertising campaign sponsored by the New York Press Association.

“We wanted to get a more positive story out there about newspapers,” said Michelle Rea, the association’s executive director, “trying to remind people of the value that local newspapers provide.” [NYT]

A more positive story about newspapers? Like how the world is going to hell because idiots like you don’t read community papers to learn about broken sidewalks and rickety guardrails?

Here’s a positive story: Spend that $4 million to hire a small army of ambitious young journalists and pay them a living wage to expose corruption, pollution, waste, and injustice. Give them space and time to dig deep and write about issues that matter. The public will clamor to read what they write. Problem solved.


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