Ouch: Parade Sunday Insert Touts Bhutto Interview -- As If She Lived

(Updated with Monday's Post treatment and a Post warning I missed)

It's quite routine for Sunday newspaper inserts to be published weeks in advance. But what happens when they become outdated? Wouldn't they throw them out and start over? Apparently not. This is the cover of Parade magazine, included in today's Washington Post:

Is Benazir Bhutto America's best hope against al-Qaeda?

'I Am What The Terrorists Most Fear'

An Interview from Pakistan by Gail Sheehy

This interview would still be newsworthy...if Parade (or its newspaper clients like the Post) would merely acknowledge that a death had occurred. But no. Turn inside and the headline is:

As Benazir Bhutto seeks a return to power, Tuesday's election in Pakistan could profoundly affect the fight against terrorism.

'A Wrong Must Be Righted' by Gail Sheehy

The text boxes in the piece add:

Is she America's best hope in the region?

'She will work with anyone to get back into power,' says her own niece

It's just amazing that publications that would claim to prize accuracy would rather honor their hidebound commercial arrangements -- Parade's already been printed, and we wouldn't want to disappoint advertisers -- even if it means appearing to be the dumbest, most clueless publication on the planet.

There is no more Benazir Bhutto on Earth to place hopes in, and there are no elections on Tuesday. 

UPDATE: In Monday's Post, the newspaper ran an Associated Press story by Karen Matthews, and Parade's editor said heck no, they weren't going to pull their publication for accuracy (hint hint, when there are ad revenues at stake):  

Randy Siegel said that Parade went to press on Dec. 21 and was already on its way to the 400 newspapers that distribute it, including The Washington Post, when Bhutto was killed Dec. 27 at a campaign rally in her country.

The Web version of the story was updated, Siegel said, but it was too late to change the magazine. He said the only option other than running the outdated article would have been asking newspapers not to distribute the magazine.

"We decided that this was an important interview to share with the American people," he said.

The Post ran an editor's note on the front page, as did other newspapers, explaining that the magazine had gone to press before Bhutto's death.

Sure enough, I missed that in the "Inside" box of Sunday's Post, there was acknowledgment that "The magazine went to press before she was assassinated on Dec. 27, so the article is not edited to reflect her death." That is the least a newspaper can do. (Refusing to run a blatantly outdated and inaccurate magazine in your Sunday paper would be better.)

I'm sorry I missed it. Here are several reasons why:

1. My reading style. After scanning front-page headlines, I often run through the supplements first to throw all the ads and assorted flotsam away. I should have checked the front section again.

2. The Post's Inside box. It's strange that the "To Our Readers" warning is white text inside a gray box that seems to say "Read if you must." The news of Parade refusing to pull its incorrect cover is underneath a less earth-shaking notice: "The [Washington Post] Magazine is on vacation this week. The Puzzle, Cul de Sac, and Dilbert appear on Page M14 of the Style & Arts section for this week only."


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Tim Graham's picture