The Badger Herald’s behavior uncalled for

There’s a big difference between the advertising and opinion sections of newspapers. One is reserved for customers who pay for space and the other is designed for the open discussion of various ideas.

The Badger Herald, one of the student newspapers of UW-Madison, has come under fire for running an advertisement titled, “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks – and Racist, Too.” The ad argues that blacks already have benefitted from the labors of American slaves and no one group is responsible for the practice, so no groups should have to pay for it.

In a staff editorial, the Badger Herald refused to apologize for running the ad, citing First Amendment issues. The newspaper also refused to run an advertisement from the Madison Student Coalition in a response that called the Herald a “racist propaganda machine.”

The editorial even criticized two California student newspapers for printing apologies after running the same ad.

The pompous attitude The Badger Herald’s editorial staff takes is unsettling. Since the advertisement was paid for, it is not a matter of free speech. It is a matter of selling ideas to the public. Had the ideas expressed in the ad been in the form of a column or letter to the editor, the situation would be different.

Something written on the opinion page allows readers to respond to the writer in the same section of the newspaper.

The person who paid for the ad is taking advantage of student newspapers by submitting an advertisement – something that may not be scrutinized as closely as columns or letters on the opinion page.

What makes this situation even worse is that the editor in chief of The Badger Herald admitted to not viewing the ad before it ran.

It is The Spectator’s policy to deny publication of any advertisement that sells ideas rather than a product. This prevents major problems from occurring. The Badger Herald should consider doing the same.