The arrival of tens of millions of DVDs of a controversial film on doorsteps around the nation -- but almost exclusively in election "swing states" -- via newspaper home delivery continues this weekend, with explanatory articles and subscriber feedback appearing on some of the papers' Web sites.
The DVDs of the 60-minute film, made in 2005, and titled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," arrived Saturday with, among other papers, the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer in Raleigh, with delivery with the Miami Herald and other papers set for Sunday.
Other Florida papers to distribute it on Sunday included the major dailies in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Fort Myers and Orlando. But it also showed up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, among others.
Despite some protests from Muslim and liberal activists, the newspapers -- all hard hit by drops in ad revenue in recent months -- have explained that the DVD does not violate their usual standards. A spokesperson at the New York Times said last Sunday they inserted 145,000 DVDs in its papers delivered in the following markets: Denver, Miami/Palm Beach, Tampa, Orlando, Detroit, Kansas City, St Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee/Madison. Note: These are all in swing states.
The documentary showcases scenes of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with shots of Nazi rallies. 'The threat of Radical Islam is the most important issue facing us today,'' reads the sleeve of the DVD. ''But it's a topic that neither the presidential candidates nor the media are discussing openly. It's our responsibility to ensure we can all make an informed vote in November.''
It was shown on Fox News just before the 2006 mid-term elections, and conservative activist David Horowitz screened the film on college campuses during 2007. An article at the group's site, www.radicalislam.org, all but endorsed John McCain this past week, then was pulled down. The DVD carries on-screen text near the outset that it is not indicting most Muslims.
An article at the site of the Morning-Call in Allentown, Pa. today reveals that it will be inserted in the Sunday paper there tomorrow. It continues: "A call to Clarion wasn't returned, but the nonprofit's spokesman, Gregory Ross, told the Harrisburg Patriot-News this week that 28 million copies of the DVD are being distributed nationwide throughout September. He said the intent is not to sway voters' opinions about the presidential candidates."
It has already been packaged with dozens of large papers, such as the Denver Post and Columbus Dispatch. Another article explaining the delivery runs online at the News & Observer.
E&P asked New York Times Co. spokeswoman Diane McNulty about the policy on this insert. She replied:
"We believe the broad principles of freedom of the press confer on us an obligation to keep our advertising columns as open as possible. Therefore our acceptance or rejection of an advertisement does not depend on whether it coincides with our editorial positions. In fact, there are many instances when we have published opinion advertisements that run counter to the stance we take on our own editorial pages.
"We do require that opinion advertisements include the name of the sponsoring organization and a mailing address or a telephone number. This enables our readers to communicate directly with the sponsor should they seek additional information or wish to express agreement or disagreement with the advertised message. This advertisement complied with these requirements. The address on the advertisement was The Clarion Fund, 255 West 36th Street Suite 800 New York, NY 10018." Asked about the rate paid, she answered: "We do not disclose the rate any one advertiser pays."