Sunday, July 27, 2008


Is it OK for newspapers to run fake ads to gauge reader interest? Readers were split, but -- in an unscientific poll on my column's blog -- 31 percent thought it fine, while 69 percent thought it represented a breach of trust with readers.

"Because time is such an increasingly precious commodity," writes Phil Clutts of Harrisburg, N.C., "it is unethical for an organization to seek to benefit from an action that totally wastes the time of a responding party."

But Jo Melis of Los Angeles writes that fake ads "sound like a clever way to determine the level of reader interest. If no money changes hands, I can't see the harm."

Chris Beale of Columbus, Ohio, thinks that the effectiveness of the fake ads will gauge their appropriateness.

"As in any business," Beale says, "you try out new marketing techniques. If it works you are a genius. If not, then downsizing occurs."

"Anyone with some minimal French knowledge would have picked up on the fake name of the airline (Derrie-Air)," writes Emmanuel Tchividjian of New York. "Keeping a sense of humor is good for society."

Check out other opinions here, or post your own or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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