Friday, September 04, 2009

Let's Play UU World Editor

(I don't know whether the editor at UU World sees the ads in advance, particularly since they have a system in place where you reserve your ad space and don't have to submit your ad immediately. If you're a stickler for detail, you might want to pretend to be the business manager. That's up to you.)

Which ads would you take? Which ads would you refuse? Why? Feel free to only address the ones you would refuse. I know the list is long, I kept coming up with new ideas:

- a moderately-phrased ad from a Pro-life group that appeals to the emotions of readers with a headline like "a person is a person no matter how small"

-an ad from a UU reiki practitioner extolling the benefits of Reiki and selling classes on reiki

- An ad from a non-UU Christian group that urges social justice action in God's name
"Thy will be done on Earth' is a call to action."

- An ad from a tobacco company advertising their product for native American-style rituals.

- A less-moderately phrased ad from a pro-life group that says something like "Everyone who supported slavery was free; everyone who supports abortion is already born."

- An ad from a UU Christian group that encourages people in trouble to reach out tho Christ. Something like "Dear God: I have a problem. It's me."

-An ad from an animal rights group that says "Stop kidding yoursef, animal slaughter is murder, go vegan."

- An ad from an organization of reform Jews encouraging people to convert to Judaism

Just curious.

CC

22 comments:

ms. kitty said...

JUst to nit-pick the premise: Christ Walton, UU World editor, does not vet the ads. It's a responsibility of the business and advertising team.

That said, it's an interesting exercise because it's a touchy job.

Chalicechick said...

Sigh.

From my post:

"(I don't know whether the editor at UU World sees the ads in advance, particularly since they have a system in place where you reserve your ad space and don't have to submit your ad immediately. If you're a stickler for detail, you might want to pretend to be the business manager. That's up to you.)"


CC

Scott Wells said...

Call me strange, but I don't particularly mind the FFRF ad, so long the check clears. A free circulation magazine doesn't run on fresh air and bunnies, and the other full-color cover ads were taken by the UUSC and an internal UUA agency.

Now, as for the FFR Foundation: I don't like the organization -- I think they're puerile, ineffecive and retrogressive -- but you can't say that they don't have a following in UU-landia. Indeed, their periodical had a 2004 article about how excluded their people felt. I can only imagine the fallout if they were {cue drum roll} excluded or some such melodrama.

So they buy the ad to raise funds. Not caring so much.

Paul Oakley said...

- a moderately-phrased ad from a Pro-life group...

Definitely. UUism is not a political position but a religion. We should be able to accept the presence of an ad from a different position than that of our current majority so long as that ad contains no known falsehoods and is not abusive in tone.


-an ad from a UU reiki practitioner...

Yes. A paid ad from one of our own should always be accepted so long as it contains no known falsehoods and does not have an abusive tone.


- An ad from a non-UU Christian group that urges social justice...

Absolutely. Some of our members would share the group's motivation. But all of us can share the social justice goal. This should be non-controversial.


- An ad from a tobacco company advertising their product for native American-style rituals.

Do we have a policy against tobacco ads generally? If so, then we cannot accept this. If not, then we should consider how this ad fits into our established guidelines re Native religions. If we have no policy we risk the ire of the UU "faithful" and should reject the ad.

In the absence of policies relevant to the current ad, I would reject the ad. I'm sure that practitioners of Native American rituals that call for tobacco do not need our ads to find the product they need while printing the ad will almost certainly be offensive to many of our members for several different reasons.


- A less-moderately phrased ad from a pro-life group that says something like "Everyone who supported slavery was free; everyone who supports abortion is already born."

Print it. Absolutely. UUism is not a political position but a religion. We should be able to accept the presence of an ad from a different position than that of our current majority so long as that ad contains no known falsehoods and is not abusive in tone.


- An ad from a UU Christian group that encourages people in trouble to reach out to Christ...

Yes. Definitely. An ad from any UU group should be accepted so long as it contains no known falsehoods and is not abusive in tone.


-An ad from an animal rights group that says "Stop kidding yoursef, animal slaughter is murder, go vegan."

Absolutely NOT. The accusation of murder is unnecessarily offensive to non-vegan UUs and states a moral opinion as fact.


- An ad from an organization of reform Jews encouraging people to convert to Judaism

NO. It is inappropriate for a denominational magazine to print ads encouraging people to join a different religion.

ms. kitty said...

Woops, it's Chris, not Christ.

I tend to skim posts once I think I've gotten the point, but yours is well-taken, CC. I skimmed right over that paragraph.

Robin Edgar said...

CC Do you have any idea just how condescending your "sighs" appear to be?

Chalicechick said...

Would that be more or less condescending than commenting negatively on a post one hasn't even read under the assumption that your criticism couldn't possibly have been addressed?

I'm willing to call it a draw.

CC

ms. kitty said...

Actually it wasn't a criticism, CC. But your post starts out with the invitation to be editor of the World for a moment. Seemed to me that it was more additional information to anyone who wanted to take it up. That was my intent, anyhow. And I intended to validate the exercise with my last sentence. Sorry if it didn't feel that way.

Chalicechick said...

It's OK, I don't see it as a big deal. I just don't see sighing as a big deal and wanted to make the point that we were even.

jess said...

I wouldn't print any of the ads that you suggest, not because I agree or disagree with any of them, but because they're not all that relevant to the purpose of the magazine. But I'm anti advertising on pretty much every level when it comes to this sort of thing, even though I know it pays the bills, because I find that it gets in the way of the content of the publication. (It's a good thing I'm not the business manager!)

In particular, though I wouldn't print ads on *any* political position, majority UU opinion or not.

I'm somewhat confused by Paul Oakley's support for the abortion ads, but vehement distaste for the vegan ad -- I find even the milder tone of the abortion ads just as offensive as the vegan ad.

Joel Monka said...

The long version of my comment I put on my own blog- with a link. the short version is:My editorial principles would be: no attack ads; nothing that ridicules or denigrates any person, faith, or organization. No political ads, even positive and polite ones, for fear of both offending members and running afoul of the IRS. Ads must be tasteful, taking the sensibilities of the readership into account. Lastly, I am sure there some editorial policies about products or groups that may be unacceptable that have been decided by the board.

this means that I would take all of the ads listed except for the tobbacco ad, which I would have refused as general policy.

Joel Monka said...

Scott- it is not the concept of selling ads to the FFRF that I object to, it is that specific ad, which is an attack ad, pure and simple. It doesn't tell us anything about the issue- it doesn't even mention the Constitution, or prayers in school, etc. An ad that states their own position instead of sneering at everyone else would be perfectly acceptable.

DairyStateDad said...

Speaking as a journalist and as a UU [for this exercise I'll stipulate I'm the business manager, not the editor, since as an editor I wouldn't even want to KNOW who's advertising], I'm inclined at first blush to print almost all of them--maybe even the vegan and the convert-to-Judaism one (although I'd have to think more about those--Paul Oakley makes some reasonable observations in his inclination to reject them).

There are ads I would reject, but their 'objectionable' quality would have to be more black-and-white than these. As Scott Wells notes, a free-circ pub counts on ad revenue to offset costs. Which isn't to say anything goes. But my semi-libertarian instincts, esp. around free speech, which are equally rooted in my profession and in my religious outlook, tend to push me toward leaving a lot of leeway.

All that said... advertising always has been a devil's pact in journalism (apologies to the many honest and well-meaning ad industry professionals out there). And in the news industry (a bit different than a special interest quarterly magazine, to be sure) it's turning out to be the death knell, as the digital age renders advertising almost irrelevant to marketers and their desired audiences. So the other thing I'd be doing as business manger is figuring out a new revenue model.

Paul Oakley said...

Jess,

My reason for accepting or rejecting the ads was not a statement of agreement or disagreement with either position but a response to the manner in which the position was presented.

The vegan ad was expressly abusive of anyone who takes a different position. After all, if animal slaughter is murder, then the person for whose purchase the animal is slaughtered is a murderer. That is an accusation.

The "Pro-Life" ads were not abusive of anyone who held an opposing position, nor even, for that matter, abusive of someone who has had an abortion. They present a position without attacking people on the other side.

It seems to me that the offensiveness that you find in the "Pro-Life" ads may be a response to the position taken in the ads, perhaps informed by various tactics and strategies taken by that broad camp apart from these ads, rather than a response to the ads themselves.

Jess said...

Paul -- my objection to the abortion ads is to advertise for either anti-abortion or pro-choice positions at all. It is their political ramifications that I find offensive in this particular context.

And, the second abortion ad is backhandedly attacking the pro-choice position as supporting slavery.

I think what we're all missing here is the context of this particular publication, supported by money from members of our congregations and meant to be a supplement to the spiritual development of our Association, accepting advertising that runs directly contrary to our professed values of plurality and diversity. A Reiki ad does not encourage readers to take sides, but offers access to a service. An ad for a particular political position, such as anti-abortion, does. An ad encouraging people to convert to a religion outside of Unitarian Universalism promotes one true way theology, which we expressly discourage as a faith movement. An ad from the UU Christian Fellowship, worded as an invitation, would be appropriate as long as it didn't backhand other perspectives such as atheists and humanists.

What it would come down to fundamentally for me would be, "Is this ad in keeping with UU values, or is it seeking to divide us in some way?" We are not required as a faith community to offer a bully pulpit to whoever can pay for it.

The ad for the Freedom from Religion outfit is meant to be divisive -- "us" vs. "them." Not to mention that it undermines the very existence of every single one of our congregations. Yuck.

Bill Baar said...

There's a difference between ads advocating positions, and ads selling stuff.

It there is a UU Group advocating and the purpose of the ad is to make other UU's aware of them i.e. the UU Polyamorists is the example that comes to my mind, I think you have to consider accepting the ad and the impact on the greater Church of not accepting it..after all they are UUs.

Ads from groups of non-UUs advocating positions I'd probably rule out on principle.

Ads trying to sell UU's stuff I'd much more easily accept although I'd be wary of services. I'd want some assurance the person behind the ad isn't running a racket e.g. Financial Services and what not (I am from Chicago where a lot of people run rackets.)

DairyStateDad said...

@Jess,
On the abortion ads, which you would reject in part because they verge on the political... What about an ad from the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights? Or what if there was a group of UUs that wanted to turn the denomination's position from pro-choice to anti-abortion, perhaps calling themselves "UUs for Life"?

More generally, RE the FFRF ad:
DairyStateMom, a Christian, looked at them and was unfazed by them (and surprised when I told her about objections among some UUs to them). "If my faith is so fragile that it disintegrates at a comment from Clarence Darrow, then it's not very robust, and that's my problem, not the ad's," she said.

**full disclosure. I was paid $100 a year or so ago by FFRF for reprinting an article I had written elsewhere. That in no way influences my position on this topic. Frankly, seeing the ads themselves and their prominence, I do get a little squeamish about them, as insults to significant elements of UU World's readership.

Steve Caldwell said...

I sent an email to the UU World editors about this and I received a boilerplate response from the UU World business manager (Scott Ullrich). His email included the following link:

http://www.uuworld.org/advertising/uuworldadvertisingpolicy.shtml

Here's an extended quote from their ad policy (quoted text in BOLD):

UU World seeks advertisements from organizations, companies, and associations—for-profit and not-for-profit—whose missions and goals are consistent with the principles, goals, and practices of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and its member congregations. The editors of UU World and the UUA executive staff reserve the right to reject advertisements that are inconsistent with the UUA mission, the nature of the magazine, or the editorial and visual integrity of the magazine.

In particular, because UU World circulates primarily among UUs as a benefit of membership in a congregation, because UUs have widely differing views and standards regarding erotic materials, and because the magazine addresses a family audience, including children and adolescents, the magazine reserves the right to refuse advertising with imagery or language denoting a sex act, as well as advertising for products that aid in or depict sex acts.

In addition, UU World will not accept:

** Advertisements with any sexist, homophobic, ageist, racist, or other discriminatory language.

** Advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, or weapons.

** Advertisements related to assisted suicide.

** Advertisements related to open adoption, surrogate mothers, or sperm donors.

** Advertorials.

UU World also reserves the right to use “advertisement” as a label on any ad to prevent it from being confused with its editorial content.

All advertisements are published with the understanding that the material complies with all US postal regulations and other federal and state laws. The advertiser and its agency warrant that they are authorized to publish the entire contents of the advertisement and that all statements in the advertisement are true.


Since anyone playing as the hypothetical UU World business manager would be following the existing policies, the only clear-cut violation in CC's hypothetical examples is the tobacco ad (the polices prohibit all tobacco ads regardless of any religious context for the tobacco usage).

The other examples are subjective judgment calls and are not as clear-cut for anyone doing this exercise.

Jess said...

DDD -- yes, for the UUWorld, I would personally reject any ad on the abortion issue due to its political ramifications. This particular publication is meant for a very specific purpose: to represent our Association and to deepen our spiritual experience as a wider faith movement.

This is not to say that we don't wrestle with difficult issues in this publication, or that the magazine should only print content on which everyone can agree -- this is about the advertising, only. I don't think it serves our movement well to accept advertising that is based on division.

Bill Baar said...

Well, I hope UUWorld got big bucks for the ad. I just thumbed through the issue and my biggest gripe is Churches falling short of their pledges and then UU's getting caught up in some anti-Religion mode and kicking bucks over to this outfit.

No wonder UU growth is flat.

Paul Oakley said...

Jess wrote:
...yes, for the UUWorld, I would personally reject any ad on the abortion issue due to its political ramifications.

Of course, the UUA has already taken a position re the political issue of abortion rights.

It strikes me as being grossly out of balance if our (democratic) faith takes positions on political matters and then decides that it can't accept advertising that promotes further examination of the issues. It is rather like saying, "We have decided. Discussion is closed. So shut up and toe the line."

If we want even a modicum of consistency we should either cease and desist making resolutions on political issues OR we should allow the broadest possible continuing discussion of the topics we have previously made resolutions concerning. And that broad discussion certainly could (perhaps even should) include communicating through paid advertising in UUWorld.

Steve Caldwell said...

Bill Baar wrote:
-snip-
"No wonder UU growth is flat."

Bill,

It may be more complex than that.

Our growth may be flat. However, many of the mainline Protestant growth rates are worse than flat. They're shrinking numerically.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States#ARIS_findings

So ... with our historical roots in the Protestant Reformation, we need to look at more than our growth rate. We also need to look at how the "religion" sector of the economy is doing and also look at how "brands" that are most similar to UU are doing.

Whatever problems we may have with packaging of the UU brand name in the religious marketplace are probably complicated by the fact that this sector of the economy is shrinking.

It doesn't matter if one makes the best buggy whips and typewriters while the rest of the world is moving towards horseless carriages (automobiles) and computers with word processing software.