Sentinel Editor: DM Subsidiary Likely Should Have Been Disclosed

The public editor of the Orlando Sentinel said yesterday he thinks the newspaper should have disclosed its ownership of a direct marketing agency in a story on the Direct Marketing Association's fall show that some marketers decried as unfair.

Manning Pynn, whose job it is to critique the newspaper in a weekly column and respond to readers, said he did not think the Sentinel was under any obligation to reveal that the newspaper operates the agency Sentinel Direct, but “I think it should have been, personally.”

Pynn said he is researching allegations of inaccuracies in the Oct. 14 Sentinel article on the DMA fall show and may do a column on the matter in the future depending on what he finds.

The article referred to DMA attendees as “spammers” in a headline, lumped them with “the folks at SnoreFix and The Money Maker Plan” and referred to one exhibitor as “Hypnosis 360” when its real name was Hyphos360. The Sentinel has since issued a correction of the Hyphos360 error.

Hyphos360 submitted a letter to the editor it wished the Sentinel to print, but the paper declined because the letter referred to “multiple inaccuracies” in the story when it was aware only of one and Hyphos did not identify any others, Pynn said. The paper has a policy against running letters containing inaccurate information, he said.

Since then, the DMA has pointed out at least one other inaccuracy in the story involving the direct marketing industry's annual sales figure, Pynn said. He said he is tracking down the correct number, determining how the error occurred and considering whether to run a revised letter from Hyphos.

The DMA is evaluating whether it will return to Orlando, FL, for the 2007 fall annual. The Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which runs the Orange County Convention Center where the show was held, wants the show to return and has sent a letter to the DMA, said Danielle Courtenay, vice president of public relations for the bureau.

Courtenay said she had helped DMA officials get in touch with Pynn but had not taken a direct role in the discussions about the story. Hundreds of conventions come to Orlando each year but this is the first time local newspaper coverage of an event has caused an issue, she said.

“My role is really a facilitating role,” Courtenay said. “There is no reason nor is it appropriate for me to be in the middle of a discussion between direct marketing and the Orlando Sentinel.”

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