Sun Sentinel Apologizes After Running Front-Page Gun Ad Below Parkland Story

via Fred Guttenberg
Since the Parkland massacre, the Sun Sentinel's journalists have done exemplary work detailing the failures of Broward Sheriff's Office deputies' response to the mass shooting and covering the national gun control movement sparked by Stoneman Douglas survivors and parents. Yet amid all of that stellar journalism, the paper's advertising staff continued taking money from gun sellers.

Those two sides of the paper collided this morning in a spectacularly ill-thought-out front page that included stories about a Stoneman Douglas fundraiser and the guilty plea of a mass shooter who killed five at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport — both printed just above a glaring neon-orange ad for a gun show.

After an outcry from Stoneman Douglas families, the paper quickly apologized and announced it would stop printing gun ads for the moment.

"It's a mess. It's horrible," says Julie Anderson, the Sun Sentinel's editor in chief. "We're taking every step possible to make sure our editorial staff always see ads before publication so something like this doesn't slip through."

In her statement, publisher Nancy Meyer said, "We deeply regret placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning. It has been against our policy to run gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page."

Here's the full front page as tweeted at 9:11 this morning by Fred Guttenberg, who has become a crusading gun control activist since his daughter Jaime was killed in the Parkland shooting
Guttenberg says the Sun Sentinel's leadership quickly responded. The paper posted Meyer's statement just before 10:30 a.m. and then updated it a few minutes later to include the announcement about a moratorium on gun advertising.

"I'm really pleased, actually," Guttenberg says. "Someone made a really stupid error, or at least I'm assuming it was an error. They did more than apologize; they actually put a moratorium in place on more gun advertising."

In fact, Anderson says the paper's layout systems allowed editorial staffers to see only the stories, not the ads, on the front page.

"Our desk editors were looking at editorial copy and didn't see the ad on the bottom," she says. "Regardless, we feel terrible."

Anderson says she and other top editors have spent the morning on the phone with upset readers explaining the ad placement wasn't intentional and apologizing for the juxtaposition. The editor praises Meyer for her quick decision to place a moratorium on gun advertising.

But Guttenberg says he wants the publisher to go even further by making the ban permanent. He says he thinks ads from the gun industry are fundamentally incompatible with the editorial mission of Broward's flagship newspaper.

"I want to break and cripple this cycle of money that has led to the death of my daughter and so many others," Guttenberg says. "I'm going to ask them to make this a permanent change."

Anderson says she's open to that conversation, though the final decision is Meyer's.

"We will talk about it," she says. "Right now it's a moratorium. I'm going to be talking to Nancy about how long this lasts, but it's ultimately her call."
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink