BEHIND THE SCENES
THE WORK OF E. & J. Gallo Winery's venomous little ol' parable writer appears once again in today's Crimson. In a large advertisement on page eight of this issue, the Brothers Gallo take credit for forming the United Farmworkers' union, for bringing Cesar Chavez to power, and for defending both in the face of opposition from other grape growers--a tale many might regard as at least as fanciful as they style in which it is written.
The advertisement, headlined "Follow the Leader," also purports to chronicle Chavez's fall from power in the eyes of the workers, a decline that Gallo would like to attribute to the excellent pay and benefits it offers its workers and Chavez's overindulgence in the Washington cocktail circuit.
Were The Crimson to determine the acceptability of advertisements by its editorial policy, there is little doubt that neither this missive from Gallo nor the two Gallo advertisements that preceded it would not have appeared. Editorially, this newspaper has for many years supported the efforts of Chavez and the UFW to give the farm-workers some determination over their lives and their work.
But the advertising and editorial policies of this newspaper are completely separate, governed in common only by the concept of free speech. The unwritten rule, like that of many other newspapers, has been to accept any advertisement that is not clearly misleading, deceptive, libelous or offensive. Even broader latitude is given to ads that express a political point of view.
The policy traditionally has been intended to allow the widest possible range of opinions in The Crimson's advertising columns, and in some cases to allow those who have been attacked by the newspaper to respond to those attacks. While it is not ideal--perpetuating to some extent A.J. Liebling's idea that "freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one" (or can afford to buy space in one) it seems to surpass whatever is second-best.
The decisions of whether to publish Gallo's advertisements have been more difficult than most. Objective fact has been hard to find in this controversy; what there is has been shrouded in opinion of all shades and colors. The statements made in Gallo's advertisements may or may not be misleading or deceptive, depending on one's interpretation of statistics; the messages are clearly not libelous; and while many people might be offended by the advertisements, Gallo supporters no doubt thrive on them.
FAR MORE objectionable than the advertisements themselves has been Gallo's way of doing business--something that the reader never sees, but that The Crimson must contend with.
No respectable advertiser, for example, would fail to identify himself when he places an advertisement in order to sway public opinion; yet the return address on the envelope is the only identification of Gallo's advertisements when they arrive at The Crimson. By the same token, no respectable newspaper publishes unidentified political advertising. The company's first advertisement was published unidentified because of a technical error; The Crimson provided a standard identification line on the second advertisement.
When Gallo found that The Crimson had identified it as the advertiser, the company complained. In an effort to avoid direct identification of the advertisement that appears today, a representative offered a compromise line: "If you wish a poster-size reprint of this ad, please write to the E. & J. Gallo Winery..." The Crimson refused the compromise, but offered to print it along with more direct identification.
This is obviously not what Gallo had in mind. The dual mention of the company would be "repetitive," a representative said. What is more likely, however, is that the company felt that attaching its damaged credibility to the advertisement would immediately destroy the ad's effectiveness. In the end, Gallo relented.
Whether the advertisements have any impact is doubtful in any case. No knowledgeable advertiser purposely offends the sensibilities of his audience in messages laden with more juvenile sarcasm than fact. Gallo, which has been preparing its anti-UFW ads without the aid or expertise of a professional agency, has done this twice. The company is apparently unaware of a basic tenet of advertising that holds that sarcasm alienates more readers than it convinces.
The company's one attempt at gravity came in an advertisement headlined, "Ten Documented Facts You Should Consider Before Boycotting Gallo." Who documented these facts is left unclear; the advertisement provides references for none of its statements.
Gallo has spent close to $700 to place its three somewhat incredible messages in The Crimson--messages that on personal grounds most members of this newspaper would have preferred not to publish, but messages that on grounds of freedom of speech were not censored.
It is questionable that any of these advertisements will have a significant effect upon those who support the boycott; meanwhile, there is some justice in the knowledge that the company's funds are being used to support articles that oppose it.