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Don't put your Amy Senser story next to an ad with a roadside ditch

Amy Senser's hit-and-run trial drew media like moths to a flame, but news sites got burned — repeatedly, in at least one case — by not policing the ads that ran with the copy.

Here's the one of the worst ones I've ever seen, from the Pioneer Press's TwinCities.com:

Digital production staffs live in terror of such things. Ads, such as the one above from DirecTV, are set in rotation (often via third-party networks), and sometimes, you don't remember what they actually say or look like until a jerk like me points it out.

I think the someone eventually caught the one above (I couldn't catch it again upon page refresh), but then this less-but-still-regrettable one popped up.

If nothing else, makes you realize how often violence and advertising go together.

Over in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune was not immune from remarkable ad placement. Whether Senser was drunk was never clearly established at trial, but if nothing else, the story underscores the ad's message 

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Comments (5)

Juxtaposition

Bound to happen with fewer human eyes involved in the process of packaging news and advertising. In the old days at the Tribune and then the Strib, paper layouts from the ad makeup department would label any ads for airlines or cigarettes; newsroom layout editors were required or expected to avoid placing stories about plane crashes or cancer, respectively, on those pages. A month ago the print Pioneer Press had a brief about "3 arrested for cannibalism" adjacent to a robo-placed ad (presumably, on a space-available basis to fill small holes) for Burger Moe's. It did trigger my White Castle craving.

Inadvertant placement of inappropriate ads is one thing

What's egregious is when I visit sites and get bombarded by obnoxious political ads that I know are being deliberately placed for my reading displeasure.

And thanks for all the kind

And thanks for all the kind words on our actual coverage of the trial. Each day, we tried to tell our readers something that even the other reporters covering the trial didn't know.
David Hanners
reporter
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Content generated ads

I didn't think they had much control over the ads that automatically pop up on webpages. it's my understanding that there are algorithms that analyze the content on the page and then "match" them to the ads that get displayed, which can result in some truly unfortunate juxtapositions. There are even websites out there full of examples of unhappy matchups such as the one found here:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/24-badly-placed-internet-ads

My understanding is newsrooms

My understanding is newsrooms are not supposed to place stories based on ad layout. Some newsrooms don't even have access to the content of ads on a layout. There are just boxes where each ad will go. It is hard to say your journalists are not biased by advertising if you change the layout of news stories based on surrounding ads.

Airlines have pulled advertising contracts when their ad was placed next to a news story on a plane crash. Most of the time the advertisers come back eventually because they realize the ads were generating business for them.