Michigan Daily staff faces off over tobacco

(U-WIRE) ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Michigan Daily’s staff is divided into two parts: the editorial staff, which comprises all writers and editors, and the business staff, which mainly consists of managers and advertising executives. These two groups have no control over what the other side does. Each department has its own agenda and goals, and each works to maintain those beliefs.
Last Friday, when an inserted advertisement for Copenhagen chewing tobacco appeared in every copy of the Michigan Daily, the editorial side of the paper was shocked and embarrassed, because this flyer directly contradicts its long-standing anti-tobacco industry policy.
The editorial side of the Michigan Daily has held the belief that tobacco is a dangerous, life-threatening industry in which the university should not be investing money. In addition, the writers and editors disagree with the politics and methods used by tobacco companies that deny the malignant qualities of their product and target their marketing at young audiences.
This philosophical belief has, for years, led the editors of the paper to protest the university’s affiliation and investment in tobacco companies.
The job of the business side of the Michigan Daily is to make the money needed to print and distribute 16,500 free copies of the paper, five times a week. Making money — generally through selling ads — is what the business department considers most important. Selling ads is very much as integral a part of the Michigan Daily as the articles. Just as the editors and writers are allowed to voice their opinions through the Daily’s editorial page, the business staff is allowed to see all customers equally — as dollars.
This particular case becomes especially tough, however, due to the nature of the ad. When a normal print advertisement falls on a page with articles, the editorial side has more power to control its impact.
In the fall term, an ad for Rooster Snuff ran for several days, yet every day the ad ran, articles concerning the dangers of tobacco ran next to it. With this arrangement, the different ideologies of the paper were clear. With an insert, there is no way for the editorial side to comment on the material, so the hypocrisy of the Daily goes unaddressed.
To make matters worse, the insert includes an offer for a free can of the tobacco product. Not only is this a plug for tobacco, but it is an enticement for non-chewers to start harming their bodies.
Hypocrisy is a highly undesirable quality in a newspaper. The editors and writers of the Michigan Daily are upset that their strong anti-tobacco stance was essentially nullified by the business staff of the paper. Advertisements for Rooster Snuff will run this Thursday and every Thursday during February.
It is not that the business staff is unaware of the editorial staff’s opinions; it is a matter of money and the fact that the U.S. Tobacco Company was willing to buy so much advertising space.
As a representative of the university’s student body, the Michigan Daily works to defend what is good for that population and to provide it with information. But the business staff’s stubbornness in running the tobacco advertisement is contradictory to that mission. This matter should ideally be settled between the heads of the staffs, but the two sides of the paper are deadlocked at a disagreement on policy and ethics.
It is a shame that an institution that prides itself on expressing the feelings of the University’s student body must come head to head, inside its own walls, on such an issue — but the Daily’s editorial staff feels too strongly on the issue to simply let it pass.

This staff editorial originally appeared in Monday’s edition of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Daily.