Are newspapers sexy?

Sexy Newspaper

Photo by liquene on Flickr

The Newspaper Association of America recently unveiled a new advertising campaign: “Smart is the New Sexy.

I wrote a snarky blog about it, asking “Whose idea was this?”

But I’m having second thoughts. I just read the Valentine’s Day issue of my daily newspaper, The Seattle Times. Yikes! This paper is smokin’.

Take Page One: There’s a five-column photo of Gov. Chris Gregoire after signing a bill to legalize gay marriage. She’s surrounded by a pumped-up group of legislators clapping ecstatically. Just below is a shot of several young female patrons of the Wild Rose, a well-known lesbian bar.

Anchoring the page is a six-column ad from a local drug store: “Sweep her off her feet!” It features a bottle of champagne, a plus sign, a dozen red roses, an equals sign, and then a beaming couple lying in bed in their pajamas. Some formula!

Page 4 carries an eye-catching story about how Valentine’s Day has become a big deal in Baghdad. A photo shows two Iraqi women shopping in the “central holy city” of Karbala. One holds a heart-shaped pillow that says “love,” just below a big balloon saying “My heart beats.” This is “the nation’s most amorous celebration of the holiday ever,” the story declares. Talk about a surge!

Half of Page 5 is a Starbucks ad showing a laughing young woman clutching her caffe mocha, piled high with whipped cream. The drink “has become a bit of an obsession,” the ad says: “Warm up” with one.

Page 6 and 7 feature jumps (no pun intended) of stories on the gay-marriage bill, with a charming photo of two long-time women partners who now plan to get married. Describing how they met, one recalls: “I walked in and saw her standing there…and it was as if someone plugged her in cause she lit up like a Christmas tree.”

An ad at the bottom of the page states “Valentine’s Day is for lovers.” It adds in small print: “but not if you have a problem with erectile dysfunction or premature issues.” It offers a “FREE Office Visit” including a “test dose of medication” to show how it works. From the smiles on the couple’s faces, it must have.

The local-news section front has a four-column photo of “senior women” at a retirement community. They are all holding up red hearts while rehearsing a musical performance of “Whatever Lola Wants.” Hubba-hubba!

The features page (B3) has two Cupid drawings with Paul McCartney’s face on one and Catherine Russell’s on the other, and a review of their new CDs. Both look a little lost. Maybe they should read a book that’s reviewed on the same page: “The Freud Files.” Or go watch a movie just out on DVD: “The Rum Diary” with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard – she pictured in a low-cut strapless dress.

The Comics & Puzzles pages are also pretty hot. Nearly half the comic strips have a Valentine’s theme. The word Jumble solution: “His Valentine’s Day lunch” was a “Hearty Meal.” The advice column offers “’Tried and True advice’ for a happy marriage.”

Even the Horoscopes are sexy. Mine (Aries): “A productive morning leaves space for a romantic evening; make what you will of it.” My wife’s (Scorpio): “Your capacity to listen makes you more alluring.”

The Sports section has an inside story about women coaching high-school boys’ swimming teams, with an intriguing photo of a woman coach helping one of her swimmers out of the pool. The lithe young boys in their swimsuits certainly could be considered sexy – as could a young woman (the coach’s daughter) sitting at poolside.

Maybe smart isn’t the new sexy, but if newspapers had this much steamy stuff in their pages every day, would their circulation go up along with readers’ temperatures? At long last, a sustainable business model!

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About John Hamer
JOHN HAMER is President of the Washington News Council, an independent forum for media fairness that he co-founded in 1998. Hamer was formerly Associate Editorial-Page Editor at The Seattle Times and previously Associate Editor with Congressional Quarterly/Editorial Research Reports in Washington, D.C. Read more about John or read John's blog posts.