You'll never believe what just happened. The same people who were frothing at the mouth over MoveOn's alleged "discount" ad rate with the New York Times have gone weirdly quiet over Rudy Giuliani's similar (if not even better) deal for the same thing.
Media Matters has the details, and those details raise a whole truckload of curious questions. Let's try to follow along:
In a New York Times article, Katharine Q. Seelye reported that MoveOn.org paid the Times $77,508 for its controversial General Betrayus" ad, ...
Yes, and this reduced rate was justified by claiming that MoveOn was getting a "standby" rate, meaning that their ad wasn't guaranteed to run on their preferred day of September 10. I had thought that this issue had been thoroughly resolved by now but, apparently, life isn't that simple:
In a September 26 New York Times article, Katharine Q. Seelye reported that MoveOn.org paid the Times $77,508 "after the newspaper revealed that its advertising department had undercharged the organization for" its controversial "General Betrayus" ad. The Times "should have charged $142,083," according to the article, "because MoveOn wanted the advertisement to run on a specific day ...and was therefore not entitled to the 'standby' rate."
Hang on ... was this a standby ad, or wasn't it? It's a fairly simple question, don't you think? Of course MoveOn "wanted" the ad to run on a particular day, but that's not the point; the point is whether they wanted a guarantee. If it ended up running on the day MoveOn preferred, that could just have been luck -- it's what "standby" is all about. But that's not what's so troublesome.
Responding to conservative outcry over the rate charged to MoveOn.org, Hoyt wrote in his September 23 column that MoveOn.org "should have paid $142,083" for its advertisement, and that it paid the lower rate because an advertising sales representative "made a mistake." According to Hoyt, "Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, said... the advertising representative failed to make it clear that for that rate The Times could not guarantee the Monday placement but left MoveOn.org with the understanding that the ad would run then. She added, 'That was contrary to our policies.'" In response, according to the Times, MoveOn.org said it would pay the difference in advertising rates "out of an abundance of caution."
MoveOn did what!?!? They paid the retroactive difference?? Why? Why is the NYT's "mistake" their problem? Does that mean that the ad was never "standby" in the first place? That's certainly a bit of news, and fairly important news at that, but it still doesn't implicate MoveOn in anything underhanded. As I read it, MoveOn asked for the cost of an ad, the Times gave them a quote, they paid it, end of discussion. And now the Times wants to go back and change the terms of the deal? You'd think it was a bit late for that but, to my amazement, MoveOn graciously agrees to pay the difference. And you'd think that's where it should end, right? Wrong. Let's read on:
In the fallout from the ad, Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a Republican presidential candidate, demanded space in the following Friday's Times to answer MoveOn.org. He got it -- and at the same $64,575 rate that MoveOn.org paid.
Excuse me? Giuliani demanded equivalent space, and he demanded it on a specific day, but he insisted on paying only the significantly smaller "standby" rate, even after MoveOn covered the difference? Now who's getting the sweetheart deal? But is it clear that Giuliani was promised a specific day? If you read that MM piece, you get two different answers: a Giuliani spokesman is adamant that they did not get a date guarantee, while NYT's Public Editor Clark Hoyt is just as adamant that he did. How confusing. And how suspicious.
Of course, this new and disturbing development will mean absolutely nothing to whiny, little shits like, oh, this. And, yes, that was a depressingly easy smackdown but I'm feeling lazy today. So sue me.
AFTERSNARK: There's one claim in the above I have real difficulty swallowing:
... Hoyt wrote in his September 23 column that MoveOn.org "should have paid $142,083" for its advertisement, and that it paid the lower rate because an advertising sales representative "made a mistake." According to Hoyt, "Catherine Mathis, vice president of corporate communications for The Times, said... the advertising representative failed to make it clear that for that rate The Times could not guarantee the Monday placement but left MoveOn.org with the understanding that the ad would run then.
I'm sorry, but how unspeakably incompetent an ad sales rep do you have to be to make that kind of "mistake?" Are we seriously supposed to believe that the Times employs sales reps that can make $77,000 fuck-ups and don't understand the concept of a "standby" rate? That strains credulity just a bit, don't you think?
Surely someone has a copy of the original contract. Don't you think that would clear things up in an instant?