Ad insert pitted free speech against faith

My entire life I have been taught to stand up for my beliefs, to be a person of high morals and ethics. My parents instilled in me many solid values I try to live by. This past week I was faced with a difficult task when my professional values came into conflict with my personal beliefs.
For the past three years, I have worked at The Minnesota Daily in the Business Department. For three years, I have been part of the newspaper community, which holds freedom of speech sacred. But for my entire life I have been a Jew, and my religion has shaped and defined my perspective.
Currently, I am the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Daily. One of the responsibilities of this job is to be part of the advertising-acceptance committee. It is my job to determine which ads go in the paper and which ads do not. I am also responsible for generating all sources of revenue for the Daily, aside from student services fees. Anytime a questionable advertisement is sent to the Daily, I must weigh things such as how the Daily will be represented, how it ties to our advertising-acceptance policies and how it will benefit the Daily’s bottom line.
Last week, we received a request for advertising rates from a group wanting to buy an advertising insert encouraging people to question the Holocaust. I had heard about these types of ads, but I assumed they were being sent only to schools in smaller towns. This ad suggested a “Holocaust controversy.” There is no controversy. The Holocaust is a factual historical event.
There was little debate among the members of the advertising-acceptance committee. All six members were in agreement that the ad should not be printed. The main reason for this was because of its propaganda nature. The idea of a “Holocaust controversy” is so ridiculous that it has no place in a professional newspaper. The Daily does encourage debate on issues; however, we will not be a medium for propaganda.
We have dealt with questionable ads dealing with strip clubs and tobacco in the past. When a questionable ad is brought to the Daily, the advertising-acceptance committee reviews the ad. The committee consists of six Daily employees, including myself. In the past, there has been some debate as to why we have accepted ads for strip clubs or tobacco. The reason for the decision is more simple than it seems. These are both legal products and services if you are of legal age. The Daily does not intend to judge for our readers what products they should or should not purchase. It is not the job of the advertising-acceptance committee to judge the products from a moral stance.
But this is not about the morality of strip clubs. This is about a group encouraging people to question the mass murder of more than six million Jews. This is about trying to spread propaganda to deny historical fact.
The Holocaust is a subject that touches close to home. I have met numerous survivors, all bearing branded numbers on their forearms. Family members I never had a chance to meet were killed in Lithuania during the Holocaust.
After we decided not to run the Holocaust ad, I had no intention to write this column. I felt good about our decision from a personal perspective, as well as from the perspective of what is right for the Daily.
The day after I received this ad, a political cartoon ran in the Daily. The cartoonist was trying to compare extreme feminist groups to Nazis. However, the cartoon used an anti-Semitic analogy: “To teach a Jew was to teach a Jew, but to teach a German was to teach a nation.” The intent of the cartoon was to take a shot at the feminist group; however, rehashing Nazi propaganda even to make an analogy is offensive to many.
If I were working in corporate America and this appeared at work, I would have an ethical dilemma. I would have to demand that someone be reprimanded or fired, or I would have to quit. However, I don’t work in corporate America. I work for a newspaper. Just as I have the right to write this opinion, the cartoonist had the right to print his political cartoon.
This is not about blame or my personal feelings about certain advertisements or cartoons. It is about defining the boundaries of debate in the Daily. We have the right to censor anything in our paper, whether it is an ad or editorial content, for whatever reason we choose. Our goal is to draw the line between legitimate opinions and misleading propaganda.

Sam Rosen is the Daily’s Director of Sales and Marketing. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]