|Cybercast News Service||October 21, 2003|
Sponsor Pulls Ad from CBS News After Homeschoolers' Complaints
Cybercast News Service
October 21, 2003
by Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
(CNSNews.com) - At least one sponsor temoparily withdrew advertising from the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, after advocates of homeschooling complained about last week's two-part report on the "dark side" of the "largely unregulated" home school movement.
Homeschool advocates claim that CBS News' telephone switchboard was so overwhelmed by the high volume of viewer complaints that some calls couldn't get through to its Los Angeles bureau.
But CBS News is not backing down, despite the criticism. A network news spokeswoman reiterated on Monday that the network continues to stand by its story.
North Carolinians for Home Education proudly announced on its website that the effort "to let CBS's sponsors [know] what you think" is making headway.
The group's president, Hal Young, appeared in the CBS report as the only person to defend homeschooling against charges that it may help hide child abuse from the public eye.
"It's working, folks," says a headline on the website of North Carolinians for Home Education. The site also posted an e-mail response from Claritin customer relations officials, saying that the allergy drug company "pulled our advertising spots" from part two of the CBS News report on homeschooling. (The two reports aired as an Eye on America segment on the CBS Evening News on October 13 and 14.)
"We apologize that you were displeased with our advertising placement for Claritin allergy products during the CBS nightly news," said the Claritin e-mail response to complaints about the ads it ran.
"We were unaware of the content of this specific news segment when the advertising spots were purchased several weeks ago. We pulled our advertising spots from the second portion of the news story and those did not run on the evening of October 14th," the e-mail explained.
Dana Bicsko, a spokeswoman for Schering-Plough Corporation, the makers of Claritin, confirmed that her company did indeed issue the e-mail announcing that the Claritin ad had been pulled from CBS News.
Since the first segment of the homeschooling report aired last week, homeschool advocates have urged other supporters to contact CBS News and its sponsors to register their disapproval with what they see as the negative portrayal.
The two-part CBS News report included several examples of parents who had "taught their children at home" but who had ended up abusing and killing the children. Texas mother Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub, was listed as one of the examples. The series concluded by noting that no states require "criminal background checks" of the parents who homeschool their children.
The North Carolinians for Home Education webpage lists the contact information for nearly three dozen sponsors of CBS News and the phone numbers for CBS News's Los Angeles bureau, the e-mail address for reporter Vince Gonzales, producer Barbara Pierce and several CBS comment lines. The group urged homeschool advocates to contact the network and its sponsors to protest the controversial reports.
The Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) claims that the network's Los Angeles bureau phone lines were shut down by the high volume of irate calls last week.
"The phone [LA Bureau] number became a non-working number [last] Tuesday afternoon," Ian M. Slatter, the director of media relations at the HSLDA, told CNSNews.com.
"People kept having trouble with that number for at least a couple of days," Slatter said "Because there have been so many calls coming into [CBS] people have been shunted to a voicemail" to register their comments, Slatter added.
Slatter also said that Vince Gonzales, the CBS correspondent who reported the homeschool segments, "turned off his number very quickly as well" in response to viewers' calls.
Since the reports aired last week, Slatter said his group has received "lot of e-mails thanking us for taking on CBS and their false reporting."
"The response has been overwhelming. People are thankful that we have stepped up with our letter to CBS, and that we are actually seeking a formal response to from the presidents of both CBS and Viacom," he added.
HSLDA's president J. Michael Smith, in a letter dated October 17 to CBS and Viacom (the parent company of CBS), said, "The goal of the CBS story was to plant the seed in the public's mind that there is a link between home education and child abuse."
CBS News has been sending e-mail responses to people who complain about the segments via the Internet, according to Slatter.
The e-mail reads: "As our reports point out more than once, the vast majority of homeschooling parents are doing a good job of both raising and educating their children. The point of our series is to report that some bad parents are hiding under the cover of the homeschooling movement. That is important for the public to know. Thank you for your comments. The CBS Evening News Staff"
Calls to CBS News reporter Vince Gonzales and CBS's Los Angeles bureau were not returned. CBS News publicist Andie Silvers declined to comment on the record regarding the reaction the network has received from viewers and the temporary loss of at least one sponsor.
But Silvers did tell \b CNSNews.com, "We continue to stand by our story."