I live in Pinellas County, Fla. and in the past few weeks I have been a little confused by the ad placement in my local newspaper, the Seminole Beacon. Every Wednesday, I devour each page of this circular’s valuable information and I take heed of what I read and learn. I have noticed some inconsistency in the messages the Seminole Beacon is sharing with their readers of late, in particular, with regards to lawn fertilization.
For instance, do you know when you can fertilize your lawn and plants? Do you know what type of fertilizer you should or shouldn’t use? Do you know where your fertilizer comes from and what is in it? Did you know about article XIII, Landscape Maintenance and Fertilizer Use and Application, located in the Pinellas County Municipal Code of Ordinances? Do you know why you are strongly discouraged to refrain from using synthetic fertilizers in a watershed area? Do you know what a watershed is?
First and foremost, a watershed an area of land whose water drains into a large body of water as the Pinellas County website states, “no matter where the pollution begins, it all ends up in the same place”, the watershed. So basically, when you water your lawn or when it rains, all that water drains to one place, carrying with it any pollution along the way.
Questions about our watershed pollution started bubbling to the surface of my brain, after I saw two conflicting ads placed on the same page in the Seminole Beacon, dated September 25, 2014. One large ad, clearly sponsored by the local water utility company, Pinellas County Utilities, urges residents – homeowners, businesses – to refrain from using synthetic fertilizers at all. These fertilizers cause soil degradation and water pollution in the local watersheds. The other ad, placed slightly above the utilities ad, is that of a small business “lawn control” company, who clearly did not get the message from the county, because they strongly state they will include fertilization in their lawn servicing.
I know. It’s enough to make a conscious citizen, shake their head. After seeing this you may be thinking, as I was, do I fertilize or don’t I? And, is there a responsibility by the printed media outlets to be conscious of their ad placements?
Conflict in advertising is nothing new and you could probably pick up any newspaper or magazine and find similar inconsistencies. Is there an editor who looks at the page and asks themselves if this may cause confusion? What about the reader who is trying to do their part in creating a healthy watershed? Will ad placements point them in the wrong direction?
It’s no secret that ad placement is all about making money and reaching readers who will hopefully, become the client. With regards to this particular layout, I am not sure the small business owner is going to get what they paid for, especially with the looming ad below vehemently stating, ‘no, don’t fertilize’.
I was struck by a moment of disconcert at my local paper on this particular day and I am hoping they too have discovered the potential for confusion. After all, when it comes to informing the public on environmental issues that are real and present, through ads or through articles, isn’t there some decorum that the editor of local papers should take, when informing its community of readers?