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Denver TV Stations Treat John McCain Ads as News

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"With Commercial, McCain Gets Much More Than His Money’s Worth," a recent New York Times article, points out that at least a couple of Denver TV stations helped presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain stretch his dollars further than anticipated by running much of a recent ad attacking Barack Obama, his Democratic opponent, in news stories rather than making the campaign pay to run it.

The spot, which scolded Obama for allegedly canceling a visit with wounded troops in Germany after the military wouldn't let him bring along cameras, was released on July 26 -- and before it appeared during that evening's Saturday Night Live episode in this market, Channel 9 aired a piece about it. "He’s putting it in front of your eyes here in Colorado before anywhere else," anchor Carrie McClure boasted as part of the report. And on July 29, two days after the commercial was debated as part of numerous Sunday-morning national network and cable-outlet news programs, Channel 4 screened much of it again during the morning program co-anchored by Brooke Wagner.

So -- was the ad newsworthy? No more so than any other negative commercial, of which there have already been quite a few during this presidential season, with plenty more sure to come. The sort of true-or-false analysis that most of the local stations are running this time around justifies such airings. But using ads as filler stories essentially constitutes free advertising for any candidate willing to say something nasty.

View the McCain ad in question by clicking "More." -- Michael Roberts


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