Exposure, or free advertising?

Question: As a local small business owner, I found the headline on Page 4 of the March 4 South Side Voice, "Overexposed" both ironic and disheartening. There was indeed overexposure going on, and not just by the flashers. I'm curious as to how the editor of that section and the photographer of the piece justify giving the owner of Java Jump what amounts to a free, full-color, 3/4-page ad on the front of that section.

Not only do I see the smiling owner, but I also am able to find out how much they charge for a 20-ounce Americano, their hours of business, and even a phone number for deliveries. Is that standard practice, or did the crop function on your computers mysteriously break down on the day in question? And what can other small business owners like myself who pay for ads in The Spokesman-Review do to get that kind of free ad space? Are there avenues where owners can invite flashers to their businesses? -- Gregory Delzer, Spokane

Answer: I appreciate the writer's concerns. It's tough being a small business owner and I can see how today's Voices story on coffee-stop flashers and robbers might have been seen as providing some businesses an unfair competitive advantage.

However, the story was a legitimate one and numerous coffee shop owners were interviewed. The owner of Java Jump was the main focus of the story because of her recent encounter with a flasher. Editing around her business, in story or photo, would have been difficult and dishonest. We're not trying to give any business a competitive advantage, but we're not editing to exclude details of a business when producing a news story.

Is this free advertising, as the writer suggests? I don't think so. I doubt Java Jump's business will increase as a result of this news report. Local businesses choose to advertise in The Spokesman-Review because newspaper advertising attracts eyes and drives customers to a business. Its effectiveness is not related to news content and editors don't take into consideration advertising imperatives when making their news decisions. -- Steve Smith, editor

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