This has gotta be some kind of nadir.
The Palm Beach Post, usually the most respectable of our local dailies, has now secreted an advertisement in its very own headline marquee. There, taking up space ordinarily occupied by an honest-to-goodness news headline, are the words: Lose 30 Lbs Overnight?
Thank goodness for the question mark, because if it were some other species of punctuation -- a period, say, or an exclamation point -- the ad would be a call to radical self-mutilation. You can't lose 30 pounds overnight, or even in a week, without a knife.
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But thanks to that question mark, the ad manages to avoid total, bloodthirsty insanity. Run your cursor over it, and an image pops into view in the marquee window. "No," the ad explains, reasonably enough, "but Lose up to 30 lbs in 30 days for $30 plus the cost of supplements!"
Look -- papers need advertising dollars, and that's fine. And it's fine to have a section in a printed magazine or newspaper which reads, clearly, "Advertising Supplement," and which contains several hundred words of newsy text extolling the virtues of an advertiser's product. That's called an "advertorial," and the form's got a long and noble history. But sticking an ad, no matter how clearly marked, in a space obviously meant to contain news just looks cheap. It's trading a little sliver of credibility for a few hundred bucks, and that's a very bad trade.