University officials claim that not only did the newspaper give the indication that MSU was okay with the pack, but it ran a news story promoting without mentioning the newspaper's involvement or the fact that Student Welcome Pack was connected with Gannett.
The university issued the following release today:
Missouri State University has learned that the Springfield News-Leader was involved in selling advertising for a “Student Welcome Pack,” which was mailed to thousands of recipients by the Student Welcome Pack, a company affiliated with the Gannett Corporation.
The mailing, which included the words “Missouri State University” in numerous locations, was done under the company name of “Student Welcome Pack,” or “SWP.” The mailing went to approximately 4,000 college-age students in the area, some of whom are Missouri State students, some of whom plan to become Missouri State students, and still others who are attending other universities or still in high school. Missouri State officials did not authorize the mailing or its contents, and the university did not provide the company with the names and addresses of students. The university first learned of the mailing after receiving scores of complaints from parents and recipients about the packet, objecting because it contained, among other items, a condom and advertising for a store specializing in erotica.
Missouri State has asked the Gannett Corporation, the parent company of the News-Leader, to take a number of actions to rectify the situation, including:
Send a letter of explanation and apology to the same mailing list that was used for the packet.
Send a letter of explanation and apology to the advertisers so they may respond as they see fit.
Publish and post on the News-Leader web site an explanation and apology.
Refrain from sending this packet, or any other version of a packet, now or anytime in the future.
“This was an inappropriate project for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was implying that the university had approved this mailing,” said Clifton Smart, general counsel for Missouri State. “We are hopeful that these corrective actions will help with the misperception that many had when they received the packet. And we trust it will not happen again.”
“This incident raises a number of questions,” commented Missouri State President Michael Nietzel. “First, how could anyone not comprehend that many people would find some of the contents of the packet objectionable and inappropriate? Second, why was the university never contacted by the publishers and distributors of the packet? And finally, why did the News Leader not reveal that it was involved in soliciting the advertisers for the mailing when it published a story about the packet a couple of weeks ago.”