MIAMI — After a Parkland school victim's dad sounded the alarm, the publisher of a major South Florida newspaper that circulates in the city, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting, apologized for running a gun show ad at the bottom of Wednesday's front page that featured two stories about shooting rampages.
The Fort Lauderdale Gun Show ad at the bottom of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s front page stood out because of its presentation — a dark semiautomatic pistol and red letters on a yellow background — and because of its juxtaposition. The front page featured a large centerpiece photo of mourning teens titled “Remembering Alyssa” that referred to a story about the birthday of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School murder victim Alyssa Alhadeff. She would have turned 15 on Tuesday.
Intensifying the contrast between the news and ad content on the front page was a story about a man pleading guilty in the 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale’s airport that left five people dead.
“Looks like the Sun Sentinel editor on this page failed. A story on the victims of gun violence and they put a gun coupon on the page. WTF!!!” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre Feb. 14, wrote Tuesday on Twitter, displaying a screenshot of the front page.
About an hour later, Sun-Sentinel publisher Nancy Meyer published an apology and pledged a moratorium on gun advertising.
“We deeply regret placement of a gun advertisement on our front page Wednesday morning. It is against our policy to run gun and other types of controversial advertising on our front page,” she wrote. “We understand how the juxtaposition of certain ads and news stories can appear extremely insensitive, and we failed to prevent such a juxtaposition today. We are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again, and the Sun Sentinel now has a moratorium on gun advertising.”
Guttenberg told Miami New Times he was happy it was resolved.
“I'm really pleased, actually," says Guttenberg. "Someone made a really stupid error, or at least I'm assuming it was an error.”
The controversy led some South Florida media critics to wonder why the error wasn’t caught by the paper, which has produced a steady stream of solid reporting about the Broward County community’s two mass shootings, the latter of which led to a national conversation about firearms and unprecedented gun control measures passing in the Florida Legislature in March.
After the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, the city of Fort Lauderdale decided to discontinue leasing the city-owned War Memorial Auditorium to the Fort Lauderdale Gun Show for the event, which has been held there for 30 years. City officials last month said the gun show can host six more events there until November, when its contract expires. At that point, city officials said they would not renew the contract.
The controversy about the gun show was well-known to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. It covered that story as well.