Can Target stop the presses?

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When the Wall Street Journal suggested last week that Minneapolis-based Target Corp. may have had a hand in how and when the Detroit Free Press ran a couple of stories, local media hound David Brauer got to wondering whether anything similar had ever happened at the two biggest daily papers in Minnesota. After all, times are tough in the news business.

Actually timing stories to ads is a big slide down the slippery slope. Sure, newspapers have long run "special sections," blatant blends of stories and ads that are (not always loudly) labeled "advertisements." But the news section is supposed to be independent of advertiser influence, even if skeptics will always have their doubts.
Here's how Paul Anger, the paper's editor, addressed what he called an inaccurate report in the Journal, via a letter to Crain's Detroit Business:

The retailer specifically wanted to advertise on Sept. 20 and 27 -- consecutive Sundays -- because those are our widest circulation days. The ad folks checked with the newsroom, which predictably did have stories planned in September as the school year started. We did tell our ad folks that barring big news developments that could change our priorities, we could run stories on the 20th and 27th.
Still, has it happened here? Brauer again:

No, say Star Tribune and Pioneer Press officials. That, in fact, was Strib spokesman Ben Taylor's one-word response. PiPress editor Thom Fladung says he's not done stories "on specific days or changed the days we would do them at an advertiser's request.


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