Media Should Be Ashamed of Starbucks Nonstory Story

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

Sometimes we're just plain embarrassed to be part of the media.

By media, we mean that yawning maw that's constantly slobbering for a juicy tidbit that can satiate its need for controversy -- even where none exists. There are dozens, nay hundreds or even thousands of examples, but the latest one to stick in our collective craw is the Starbucks tempest in a coffee cup.

News outlets piled on a "story" that a fringe group of 3,000 Christians led by a 30-year-old Wisconsinite were boycotting the coffee chain for reviving its original logo, which features its siren symbol au naturel. And how could they resist when faced with this compelling argument from Mark Dice, founder of the Resistance Manifesto, in a press release: "The Starbucks logo has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute. Need I say more? It's extremely poor taste, and the company might as well call themselves Slutbucks."

Heck, it even came complete with a sound bite.

That's because Mr. Dice and company sure know how to play the publicity game. The website of the group, whose big claim to fame is its insistence that the Sept. 11 attack was a government conspiracy, is teeming with media "credits" both national and international and proudly offers video clips of its members getting shouted down and hung up on by TV and radio hosts such as Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Larry King and others.

The site hosts on its home page an "interview" with Danny Bonaduce worthy of a Howard Stern ambush in which the former child actor is so provoked by the interviewer that the conversation devolves into little more than a string of epithets. (The Manifesto's sensitivity to obscenity apparently does not extend to the use of the word "fuck.")

But still, the media played along. There was even one major national news outlet we will decline to name that suddenly canceled an interview with an Ad Age reporter on the "story" after learning she wasn't prepared to say that advertising is getting more vulgar by the day.

When it comes down to this issue, we agree with former Starbucks VP Stanley Hainsworth: "Are you kidding me? This is a mythological figure."

And the media wonders why it's losing credibility.
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