By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
The Partnership's May 23 ad, this one in conjunction with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, offered, instead of a headline, a photo of a winsome child. Scrawled on her arm was the message "Stay involved in my life." Below came the pitch: Parents can be more influential than anyone in keeping their kids off drugs. Indeed, the ad concludes glibly, parents can be "the anti-drug."
The drug connection is not so obvious in another Times ad that appeared May 23. Buried on page F9, this ad claims that biotechnology is good for cotton farmers like Donna Winters, a middle-aged woman photographed sitting on a haystack. The ad was placed by the innocuous-sounding Council for Biotechnology Information.
A review of the group's Web site, www.whybiotech.com, suggests that its motives are not altogether unselfish. Members include major drug companies DuPont and Novartis, as well as the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents dozens more drug companies, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Merck, and Hoffmann-LaRoche. Given that the drug companies are investing heavily in biotech, it makes sense that their nonprofit uses "good-farmer" images to sell biotech to the public.
My point isn't that the Times and the pharmaceutical industry are involved in a vast conspiracy, or that the industry is buying favorable coverage. It's that the drug industry, which boasts one of the top profit margins of any in the U.S., is paying hand over fist to reach the opinion leaders who read the Times.