masthead-highres

Thursday, January 06, 2005

No Sinclair Boycott, Staples Says -- Media Matters Report "Misrepresented" Facts, Company Spokeman Says

As promised, here is a more detailed description of my conversation this evening with Staples spokesman Paul Capelli. I wrote it as a press statement and we are releasing it as one. (It is only fair, as we issued a press statement yesterday critical of Staples.)
No Boycott of Sinclair, Staples Says; Staples Says Media Matters Misrepresented Situation, Says Staples is a "Victim"

Office supply retailer Staples, Inc. is denying allegations made by a left-wing activist group that Staples is withdrawing advertising from news programs run by Sinclair Broadcasting as a result of the political content of the newscasts.

Staples Spokesman Paul Capelli told the National Center in a January 6 phone call that the organization Media Matters had "misrepresented" the facts about Staples' advertising policy regarding Sinclair. Capelli referred to Staples as a "victim" of this misrepresentation, saying Staples is "nonpolitical."

In a January 4 press release, Media Matters had said: "Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns about Sinclair's injection of partisan conservative politics into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc. attributed its decision [to cease advertising on Sinclair news January 10] in part to the response the company received from customers visiting the SinclairAction.com website."

Numerous mainstream news outlets ran stories saying Staples had decided to halt advertising on Sinclair news shows, and Internet websites such as the Drudge Report, blogs, and talk radio picked up the story. Some were highly critical of Staples, believing it had taken sides with the left against a broadcaster perceived as conservative.

Capelli, however, told The National Center that Staples stopped advertising on Sinclair news on January 10 because a previously scheduled ad campaign targeted to the Christmas season had ended. A new ad campaign, consisting of a different combination of ad buys, on a "back to work" theme had previously been scheduled to replace the ad campaign utilizing Sinclair news.

The Media Matters press release supplied this statement as its support of its report about Staples' plans: "Staples, Inc. recently replied via email to consumers who registered concerns about Sinclair newscasts, stating: 'As a result of Staples' ongoing review of its advertising media buy activity, Staples will no longer be airing advertising on any Sinclair station's local news programs as of Jan 10, 2005.'"

The Boston Globe reported on January 6 that Media Matters President David Brock told them Media Matters confirmed the information in the e-mail its activists received from Staples before issuing the press release. The Globe article does not make clear, however, what information Media Matters confirmed -- the fact that the Sinclair news ad buy was ending January 10, or the reason it is ending.

Capelli said Staples expects to spend at least as much on Sinclair ad buys in 2005 as in 2004, and perhaps more. He explicitly confirmed that Sinclair news programming would not be excluded from their 2005 plans.

Politics, Capelli said, has nothing to do with Staples' advertising decisions. The company tries had to be responsive to customer concerns, Capelli said, but is wholly nonpolitical.

Late January 6, the following statement still appeared on the website of Media Matters: "Citing an effort to be responsive to customer concerns over Sinclair's injection of partisanship into its nightly newscasts, Staples, Inc., announced it will no longer advertise on local news programming on Sinclair stations nationwide."

The National Center challenges Media Matters to provide conclusive evidence the statement on its website is true.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative, free market organization, briefly ceased purchases from Staples following an initial news report in the Washington Post leading it to believe Staples' had decided to boycott conservative programming. The National Center no longer believes the facts of this case warrant a conservative boycott of Staples.

Additional updates to this story, including any response The National Center receives from Staples, will be made available on The National Center's blog.

For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 or [email protected] or visit The National Center's website at www.nationalcenter.org.
I do look forward to seeing how Media Matters responds. Can it provide evidence that Staples actually is ending its current advertising campaing on Sinclair news in part because of on customer concerns about "partisanship"? I'll need to see the evidence to believe it.

Addendum: This is my take on what happened here. I suspect Staples originally was too clever by half. It sent emails to lefties that said that its current ad on Sinclair news would end 1/10 -- apparently phrased to maximize the likelihood that the lefties would be happy with the email without Staples actually having to do what the leftie wanted.

Probably seemed like good customer relations at the time.

The plan blew up when Media Matters put out a press release declaring victory, and the right started asking questions.

Staples could no longer have it both ways, but it gamely tried to by saying both that it was not political and that it respects its customers' wishes (hence the news stories Wednesday). Didn't work.

Now, just to regain the repution it had as nonpolitical just a few days ago, Staples has had to publicly divorce itself from the lefties it unwittingly married. Meanwhile, Media Matters is exposed for declaring victory without actually (as far as we can tell) having any proof Staples ever did anything it wasn't planning to do with its ad buys.

That's my take on it, anyway. Perhaps new information -- such as proof from Media Matters that Staples explictly said it boycotting Sinclair news out of concern that Sinclair news might be excessively partisan -- will yet develop.

Addendum 2 1:36 PM January 7: Media Matters strikes back here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:17 PM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research