Steve Moss’ misleading ad

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Political endorsement or tongue-in-cheek ad?

If you live in Potrero Hill, chances are you read the Potrero View, a neighborhood paper that’s been in existence for 40 years. Five years ago, Steve Moss took over as the View’s publisher and editor. And last year, when Moss filed papers in the D. 10 supervisor race, he stated in an editorial that “running for office and running a paper aren’t necessarily incompatible, but the two activities, undertaken simultaneously, prompts the need to adhere to ethical and legal standards.”

In that same editorial, Moss noted that, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission, a newspaper columnist seeking political office can continue to write columns.
“What they can’t do is advocate for their election, denigrate other candidates, or engage in direct politicking,” Moss wrote.

He also promised that, "The paper will not endorse any of the contenders. And we’ll offer all who’ve filed for the race a 50 percent discount on print and online advertisements—a fee my campaign committee will similarly have to pay.”

So, imagine this reporter’s surprise when I opened up the August 2010 special 40th anniversary issue of the View—and found an almost full-page advertisement, paid for the Steve Moss for D. 10 campaign, that claimed Moss got the View’s endorsement.

Titled ‘Five Things You Should Know About Steve Moss,” the advertisement features a photo of Moss and family. And the first thing that View readers should know, according to his ad, is that Moss “edits and publishes this very paper (but got its endorsement on his own merits).”

Reached by phone, Moss claimed that his ad was intended as a joke.
“It was meant tongue-in-cheek,” Moss said. “It was meant to be a joke.”

But nowhere in Moss' ad is there any disclaimer that says that the View endorsement is a joke.

" Well, maybe it wasn’t funny," Moss replied. "But you’re British. You should understand.”

Moss said so far the only call/complaint about his ad has come from me. But he added that perhaps in a future issue, he’d clarify that the View will not make any endorsements.

Moss followed up on my call with an email:

“I talked to my wife, Debbie, about the View advertisement, and she reminded me that she had warned me that some folks wouldn't understand that the endorsement was a joke," Moss wrote. "So, at minimum, you have made my wife correct.  Again. I think she's still going to vote for me, though.”

While I appreciate Moss' willingness to answer difficult questions from reporters, including those hailing from the British Isles, it seems that Moss is trying to argue that black is white. So, in the spirit of British humor, may I humbly suggest that Moss watch Monty Python’s “The Argument" skit. And then call me for a five-minute argument about his misleading ad.

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