Letters + Opinion » Mailbox

Ethics, Smokes and Revenue



There has been much hand wringing regarding the full-page tobacco ad in the NCJ (Mailbox, Jan. 21 and Jan. 28). Perhaps some have not noticed that with much reduced revenue for print media, not to mention restaurants, bars and music venues, etc., they are just barely hanging on. The Times-Standard is using the USPS to deliver, no more delivery agents at least for my subscriber relative. Death spiral? Perhaps readers of purity would accept an even further reduced staff and consequently reduced coverage of all Humboldt print media as long as their minds aren't poisoned by tobacco ads. The reader has no free will of their own to reject their overtures, I get that.

When was the last time you saw the music critic Collin Yeo's column? Music venues are closed but does that mean no new local music is being produced? How much further do you want to see the Journal reduce staff and coverage of our area due to extraordinary fiscal challenges? You have to decide, do you even value print media and critical coverage of Humboldt County issues that affect you? Maybe easily molded putty brains can't reject efforts by big tobacco to entice you into vaping or cigarettes, but the revenue is badly needed. If you want the continued existence of print media like the T-S, and NCJ, armchair economists may have to choose between ideological purity and even having any media whatsoever. Personally, I hate big tobacco. I am able to reject their message and their ad in the NCJ without the activists holding my hand. If the revenue keeps the doors open for our vital local print media.

John Dillon, Eureka


I understand that freely distributed newspapers depend on advertising and donations to stay afloat and pay the staff that brings interesting news to readers. Advertisements are also a reflection of the market to whom the paper is appealing and by the cultural norms of a given region. The lure of a full-page color advert for cigarettes with its health warning is probably a financial shot in the arm at a time when many local businesses are unable to affording advertising as they did prior to the pandemic.

At the same time, I can only imagine that the staff struggled long and hard over a decision that they knew would alienate a segment of their readership. There are risks with every business decision. Particularly, decisions affecting staff, editorials and advertising. Frankly, I was appalled to see a full-page advertisement for smokes. On the other hand, I could be equally put off by staff's choice to carry ads for gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in the face of climate change and air pollution. But I'm not. Not long ago, ads for marijuana paraphernalia (turkey bags) raised eyebrows, but not now. Full-page ads for Humboldt produced spirits with its health warning could offend some. The same for ads that promote gambling.

It's tough to thread the social compact between print media and its readership. Challenging times call for difficult decisions. There are many local businesses that used to grace the pages of the North Coast Journal with ads before the pandemic. I hope they will be able to resume their practice before too long. But I also want the Journal to continue publishing. Ad revenue is critical. My wife and I also make donations, but not enough to offset ad revenue. I happen to believe that cigarettes are unhealthy. The Journal has written plenty of articles about local no-smoking ordinances. But, as I say, these are challenging times.

I don't particularly like the ad, but I wouldn't cancel a subscription over it. However, I do hope it is dropped when other advertisers pick up the slack, or when readers step up their donation levels to demonstrate their appreciation for this local news journal.

Stephen Avis, Ferndale


I'm sorry. As a member of a nonprofit that just ponied up for a half-page ad encouraging folks to sign a healthcare petition to Gov. Newsom — www.petition.healthcare — it was disappointing to see yet another full-page ad for Lucky Strikes. The cost of a color advert of this size is significant for local businesses and organizations (more than $1,500), but mere chump change for Lucky Strike, a subsidiary of BAT, which, based on net sales, is the largest tobacco company in the world. One has to wonder why they are targeting us for their advertising.

Realizing that this ad sponsored one of the better NCJ issues in a while, I guess the major worry is that if you consort with the devil, watch out, your kids may have horns and tails.

Carol Moné, Trinidad


Please stop the tobacco advertising. It's an ethical choice to stop supporting cancer-causing products. I expect NCJ to do the right thing as soon as possible.

Christina Huff, Garberville

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