Penn State editor counters state ad ban
College paper uses editorial column to combat new alcohol ad restrictions
PENNSYLVANIA — To counter a state-imposed alcohol advertising ban in college newspapers, The Daily Collegian at Penn State University took an unorthodox way to retaliate.
Under a Pennsylvania law that went into effect in February 1997, alcohol licensees are not allowed to advertise in college student media. Many local advertisers had pulled their ads from university media, according to Gerry Hamilton, the Daily Collegian1s general manager.
However, at Penn State the newspaper moved the advertising into an editorial column titled “Over 21 Scene,” according to Hamilton.
“It1s kind of an in-your-face response to the legislation in Pennsylvania,” said Clay Calvert, mass media law professor at Penn State.
State liquor authorities squelched the effort by warning bar owners that their actions were still considered violations of the law. Many of the businesses would no longer send their circulars to the newspaper after the threat, Hamilton said. The newspaper1s editor published an editorial note, saying that the editor would personally provide the information to any student who requested it in the following issue of the newspaper as a response.
Many believe the restriction, especially on editorial content, is a violation of the First Amendment.
“We do not want the law to exist,” Harry Kloman, adviser for the Pitt News at University of Pittsburgh, said. “We think it to be unconstitutional.”
In an issue of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Mario Civera, one of the bill1s sponsors, said, “I think if [the law] was challenged, the court would throw it out.”
Hamilton said that his newspaper is not now pursuing any legal action. They submitted a letter to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s attorney in early March and are trying to arrange a meeting with their chief counsel to work out the situation. Hamilton said that the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher’s Association will assist in the meeting.
alcohol advertisements, reports, Spring 1998