Company Apologizes for Ad Featuring Chicago News Staff Praising Mayor

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Walter E. Smithe released an ad featuring tributes to Mayor Daley from journalists and celebrities. It has apologized and removed some of the journalists' comments. (Credit: Walter E. Smithe, Screenshot)

A Chicago furniture company has apologized after featuring news staff from Chicago’s CBS2 TV station in an advertisement praising Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, TimeOut Chicago reported.

CBS2 and its staff didn’t give the OK to be in the ad.

Chicago news staff featured in the ad included CBS2′ Walter Jacobson, Bill Kurtis and Rob JohnsonAllison Rosati and Natalie Martinez from NBC5 and Bob Sirott’s Fox Chicago. TimeOut noted that former president George W. Bush, Paula Deen, and fictional character Ed Bus also appeared in the tribute video.

Some of the comments to Daley made in the advertisement included CBS2’s Johnson stating that “it’s been an honor covering you” and Jacobson commenting that “we have loved watching you go through” the past 22 years of being mayor.

See the original advertisement featuring the news staff here.

The ads, for Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design, have been changed to remove the news staff from CBS2, but anchors from another station remain.  The news staff reportedly thought their messages would go to Daley, not the general public.

Chicago journalists and bloggers slammed the ads and questioned the journalism ethics. TimeOut Chicago’s Robert Feder questioned for example:

“When did it become OK for television news people to appear in ads outside of those for their own employers? When did their stations abandon adherence to the standards and practices of their parent networks?”

Feder went on to note that “While Daley may be the subject of these particular spots, Walter E. Smithe is the beneficiary.”

The president and general manager of CBS2, Bruno Cohen, stated to Timeout:

“CBS 2 did not approve having its news people appear in a Walter E. Smithe advertisement.  The station did consent to having a few of its employees participate in what was described to us as a farewell video that would be given directly to Mayor Daley when he steps down after 22 years in office next week.”

The furniture story hosted a party in mid-April where the news staff were told they could “film a personal 10-second thank you to the mayor.”

Walter E. Smithe’s Tim Smithe at first backed the commercial, TimeOut Chicago reported:

“While I appreciate [TimeOut Chicago’s Robert Feder’s] careful protection of journalism and independence, I disagree that anyone’s participation in this ‘sendoff tribute’ breaches this standard.  “I would strongly defend the integrity and good intentions of everyone featured in it, especially the broadcasters and journalists.”

Later, Smithe stated:

“Walter E. Smithe did not ask CBS 2 for permission to use its employees in a Mayor Daley tribute spot for broadcast. I personally apologize for the misunderstanding and have had CBS 2 employees removed from our commercials.”

Daley wasn’t paid for participating in the ad, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.  He explained he was in the ad because it helps “small businesses.” noted that the furniture company is also “sponsoring a contest to find CBS 2 a new traffic reporter.”

The contest winner is set to receive a three-month contract for $25,000 as the station’s new traffic correspondent, the Chicago Tribune reported.  CBS2 stated it “only will review the first 3,000 entries it gets for credibility, communication skills and likeability.”

UPDATE: 05/15/2011 10:42 PM EST: Fixed typo misspelling Daley’s name in first paragraph.

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Company Apologizes for Ad Featuring Chicago News Staff Praising Mayor

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