The San Antonio Express-News pulled an article critical of a big advertiser, Poynter’s Jim Romenesko reported.
The article, a column by staffer Scott Stroud, apparently reported negative information about H-E-B grocery stores, a “big advertiser” for the Express-News. Stroud’s column reportedly claimed that the company’s stores in black neighborhoods “are badly in need of renovation” and also carry “produce and meats that the company wouldn’t sell in wealthier parts of town.”
The Express-News is a Hearst-owned daily newspaper with a circulation of about 130,000, according to Mondo Times.
San Antonio news website Plaza de Armas first reported the column’s being blocked, but since PDA‘s report is paywall-protected, the report can also be read for free on Romenesko’s blog.
While the suggestion is that the newspaper blocked the column because H-E-B is a “big advertiser,” the newspaper’s editor, Bob Rivard, denied in an e-mail that H-E-B’s advertising dollars led to the column’s cut.
Rivard reportedly e-mailed San Antonio councilwoman Ivy Taylor’s adviser, Lou Miller, about the column:
“I’d suggest instead that we approach any story about H-E-B based on its long-standing and well-deserved reputation in the city, region and state as a best-in-class business, leading corporate citizen, and a company and ownership with an unrivaled record of philanthropy and support for public education in Texas.”
Taylor claims that the H-E-B “store in my neighborhood…does not meet the standards of what the company is about.” She calls for H-E-B to “build a new store or significantly upgrade the old ones.”
Miller reportedly doubted that Stroud’s column “was inadequate” given Stroud’s decades of working in newspapers.
Romenesko also posted a March 30 e-mail from Rivard that commented that the newspaper has “given extensive play to H-E-B plans to upgrade or renovate dozens of local and area supermarkets,” but doesn’t “generally” cover any delays in construction or plans.
iMediaEThics notes that the Express-News reported this past week on H-E-B’s $100,000 donation to aid for Japan, for example. Also in the past week, an Express-News blog covered H-E-B’s giving of awards and cash to educators in the area.
Last month, the Detroit News apologized after caving to advertiser pressures and editing a critical auto review of the Chrysler 200. The reviewer resigned from the newspaper after agreeing to edit his review, but returned to the newspaper after it publicly apologized.
iMediaEthics is writing to San Antonio Express-News and H-E-B for comment and will update with any response.