For three years I’ve been aware of BNSF plans to build a second train bridge across our lake. As a marketer working in publishing, it is very apparent to me how BNSF is trying to shape the local people’s sentiment toward their organization as well as these plans that offer no benefit to Sandpoint but rather increase the risk of environmental disasters. They do this partly by buying full-page ads in your paper.
Last year, they bought several back-cover ads just before a press release about the second bridge and your March 1 edition had another self-serving full-page ad, unabashedly boasting of their regional employment numbers, mere pages after a report on the rail bridge plan being set into action. It’s impossible to deny the conscious conjuncture of these ads with their local activity. I understand you need the ad revenue, but it is no secret the sentiment of the Reader is pro-conservation, and I know you personally care about the environment. Thus, I have to ask you: Don’t you see the irony in this? Please consider the BNSF’s not-so-subtle agenda of placing these ads and realize that you play an important role in this matter.
Marjolein Groot Nibbelink
I understand your concerns and I empathize with your sentiments, but you have to understand that the Reader’s editorial and advertising departments are always kept separate. This is by design, since no one advertiser has the ability to shape what we cover or how we cover it. In other words, you can’t buy our coverage, no matter how many ads you place in our paper. We generally do not exclude anyone from placing ads, whether it’s a political candidate, a nonprofit organization or a corporation attempting to build a second bridge over Lake Pend Oreille. We appreciate all of our advertisers, because they allow the Reader to remain a marketplace for all ideas, not just ones we, the editorial department, agree with. As time goes on, you will undoubtedly see numerous opinions and editorials about this plan from both perspectives. We could not offer this coverage without the support of our many advertisers.
As far as my personal feelings go about this second rail bridge proposal, I am opposed to it. I don’t see the need for it, and I am concerned that the increase of train traffic and proximity of passing trains over the lake will increase the potential for a devastating derailment. But – and this is an important but – this newspaper is bigger than me or you. We firmly believe that everyone has a right to voice their opinion, and we will not abuse our power to present ideas and arguments by squashing anyone’s right to present their point of view.
I hope that answers your concerns. It is not our job to tell people how to feel about any one issue, but to provide readers with the facts they need to make their own opinions. Anyone is welcome to run their own advertisement condemning the second rail bridge or BNSF or me, for that matter, and we’ll run that one, too. That’s why we have a strong code of ethics in place.
-Ben Olson, publisher.