How desperate is the University of Georgia's student newspaper, the Red and Black, for advertising revenue? Desperate enough that during the week of the World's Largest Cocktail Party -- and an even bigger Party than usual, considering that a Georgia win would prevent Florida from clinching the division and instead make the Bulldogs the overwhelming SEC East favorite -- they published the following full-page ad, paid for by Florida supporters:
As you might imagine, Georgia students and fans opening their campus newspaper only to be greeted by the kind of trash talk usually reserved for lower-rung Gator message boards aren't particularly happy. Fortunately, the Red and Black has a response:
Pick up a newspaper today on-campus. If you need to put some duct tape over the paid advertisement endorsing Fla., we understand.— Red and Black (@redandblack) October 25, 2012
Ah, the old "just ignore the fact we sold a little bit of our soul, if you would please" defense. It's impossible not to be sympathetic to a newspaper at any level looking for whatever revenue stream it can, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, doesn't it? If funds are that scarce, wouldn't a bake sale be preferable to publishing an ad like this? A dance-a-thon? Car wash? Talent show? Krispy Kreme dougnut sale? Overpriced chocolate bars?
This year has brought us plenty of examples of schools or fan groups' purchasing billboard space for the purposes of taunting, but those are public companies with truly no other allegiance other than to their bottom line. The Red and Black doesn't have to be the football program's cheerleader (we're talking to you, Charlie Weis) or kowtow to its readers, but it has to at least acknowledge its audience and the campus' best interests, doesn't it? That's why it's hard to blame the paper's readers for wondering where that line is being drawn -- and why the above ad didn't cross it.