Television icon Don Meier dies

Donald Meier, creator, producer and director of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of America’s most iconic television programs, has died.

Don Meier, creator of “Mutual ofDon Meier, creator of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” during filming of the program in the early 1960’s.
Photo: Meier family

A Meier family member said he died peacefully of natural causes last Saturday in his Winnetka, Illinois home. Meier passed away exactly one year after memorial services were held for Lorena Meier, his wife of 68-years. She died at age 100.

After serving as a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel in World War II, Meier became an early television pioneer at WBKB, Chicago’s first commercial TV station. In the 1950s, he joined the NBC Network in The Windy City where he was a director of the Dave Garroway Show. Meier produced other popular TV programs such as Quiz Kids, Mr. Wizard and Zoo Parade.

In an interview before he died Meier said Zoo Parade became his inspiration for a pilot program in the early 60s that could take TV viewers around the world to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

Don Meier visited Africa to film several episodes of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” during the program’s 25 year run on television.

Meier called his program Wild Kingdom. Without Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, the television program may have never materialized. The NBC television network agreed to broadcast Wild Kingdom if Meier could find a sponsor for his program. Meier was rejected 84 times by prospective sponsors before a chance conversation between St. Louis Zoo Director Marlin Perkins and officials at Mutual of Omaha who wanted to sponsor a new half-hour TV program around which to build a national image for their company.

That program, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, made its NBC debut in January 1963. Over the next 25 years almost 332 episodes of the largely popular program were filmed in 47 countries. Along the way, Wild Kingdom became a staple for family viewing while increasing ecological and environmental awareness. It won Emmy Awards for outstanding program achievement in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969.

Don and Lorena Meier received several Emmy Awards for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” program and have also underwritten several scholarships for students at the University of Nebraska.

Wally Podrazik, curator at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications, called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom one of the earliest examples of effective television branding. “Anyone who grew up in that era doesn’t immediately say ‘Wild Kingdom.’ First reference is ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,’” Podrazik said.

Hosted by Marlin Perkins and with co-hosts like Jim Fowler, Wild Kingdom gave audiences rough and tumble family entertainment. Even though the show was educational in nature, Don always reminded his staff that they were producing an entertainment show. “We always edited it so that the program looked as though you were looking over Marlin’s shoulder and participating with him in the action,” Meier later said.

In 1974, Wild Kingdom parted with NBC to become a successful syndicated program that ran through 1988. During its peak years, 34 million Americans watched Wild Kingdom each Sunday on 224 U.S. TV stations. Former co-host Jim Fowler called Wild Kingdom one of television’s first reality TV shows. “We actually went out and had the adventures and had the experiences that we showed on television,” Fowler said.

Meier’s program also became a precursor to modern wildlife programs on cable networks such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. In his late 90s, Meier reflected on Wild Kingdom’s success. He said the program’s greatest achievement was its reshaping of the way many viewers thought about wildlife and wild places. Meier took note of the changes he had seen in the world. “There were places I went when I was doing Wild Kingdom. I could see the changes happening all the time,” Meier said.  “It doesn’t take very much awareness to come to the conclusion that we better take care of the planet now rather than later.”

Meier, an Oshkosh, Nebraska native, was a graduate and scholarship benefactor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In the near future, Meier’s four Emmy awards will be on display at the UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Meier’s legacy of supporting students and higher education will continue through the Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation. Meier is survived by his many loving nieces, nephews, and their families.

To watch an award-winning documentary about Don Meier and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom click here or go to:

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And No Bird Sang: World War I

Author’s note: This story is just one from a series that look at World War I and WWI General John J. Pershing. Click here to see more of the series.- Bernard R. McCoy)

After the war’s end in 1918, an extraordinary film was commissioned by the French government to capture the scale of the Great War’s devastation and the shocking extent of the fighting across the Western Front in northern France and Belgium.

LucienLeSaintPortrait (2)

Lucien Le Saint, 1917, © Musée Albert-Kahn – Département des Hauts-de-Seine

The 78-minute film was called “En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille” (“In airship on the battlefield”). It was shot by film-maker Lucien Le Saint in what was said to be a French government effort to obtain reparations from the Germans for the devastation left behind by the war.

The film was shot at the beginning of 1919 with French balloon pilot Jacques Trolley de Prévaux as he flew a few hundred feet above the battleground.


Jacques Trolley de Prévaux Photo: French government

Thanks to the French government, I was able to get portions of the film and have paired them in the video below with a portion of the song ‘The Awakening’ by composer Joseph M Martin.

To me, the song’s lyrics capture the physical and spiritual desolation left behind in the war’s ruins.

 “I dreamed a dream, a silent dream of a land not far away.

Where no bird sang, no steeples rang, and teardrops fell like rain.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream. I dreamed a dream of a land so filled with pride that every song, both weak and strong, withered and died.

I dreamed a dream.

No hallelujah; not one hosanna! No song of love, no lullaby.

And no choir sang to change the world. No pipers played, no dancers twirled.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream.”

A naval gunnery officer before the war started in 1914, Jacques Trolley de Prévaux had been retrained to fly the dirigibles that had been developed to spot for artillery, detect mines at sea and fight against submarines. For his actions he was awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de guerre.

He joined the French Resistance at the beginning of 1942 and turned down an opportunity to go to London, but decided to stay in France. According to the French government’s Chemins de Mémoire, Trolley de Prévaux felt he would be of more use at home than in London. Secondly, his wife, a Jew of Polish origin and a resistance fighter along with him, was pregnant.


Jacques and Lotka Trolley de Prévaux in 1936. Photo: Paris Match

In the spring of 1943, he received the Distinguished Service Order from the British and appointed to become one of the main leaders of the French Resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo in Marseille in March 1944. Jailed at Montluc Prison, he was executed in August 1944. His wife, Lotka, met with the same fate. Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Trolley de Prévaux was posthumously made a Compagnon de la Libération, or Hero of the Liberation of France.

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Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Nebraska’s economy

The trade war between the United State and China has officially launched as both countries have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs. A prolonged trade war could have major economic consequences for Nebraska.


President Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to the U.S. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

In response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, China’s Ministry of Commerce this month announced 25% tariffs of equal size on certain U.S. exports to China.

While Trump’s tariffs mostly target industrial and tech goods, China is focusing heavily on increased tariffs on agricultural products from the U.S. — a move that is likely to not only cause pain to Trump’s political supporters but leave US farmers with fewer options to divert their crops.

Nebraska farmers and ranchers, in particular, could suffer given the state’s heavy reliance on agricultural exports to China. China is Nebraska’s number 1 export market. It’s also the number 1 export market for 22 other American states.


Source: Business Insider

According to the most recent reporting figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • $1.43-billion in Nebraska agricultural exports were sold to China in 2016
  • China comprised 22% of Nebraska’s agricultural export market  
  • 57% of Nebraska beef exports were sold to China
  • 52% of Nebraska soybean and soybean products and 79% of the state’s sorghum crop was exported to China  

The chart below lists Nebraska agricultural exports to China.


The chart below lists primary Nebraska agricultural exports China has increased its tariffs against.


If the tariff war drags on, state services to Nebraska residents would suffer too as a potential $250 million drop in agricultural export income could cause a multi-million dollar decline in state tax revenues. The political irony is that Nebraska overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, the architect, and instigator of the current trade war with China,  in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

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Behind-the-scenes star of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom dies

(Editor’s note: Don and Lorena Meier have been long-time scholarship donors and friends of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. See below for Lorena Meier’s obituary)

Don and Lorena Meier shared the honors as recipients of several Emmy Awards during the 25 years “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” aired on TV stations across America in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Lorena Meier died at age 100 on June 22, 2018. (Photo: Courtesy Don Meier)

From 1963 to 1987, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was a Sunday night television staple for tens of millions of families across America. The show made host Marlin Perkins a household name and earned its creator and producer, Don Meier, well-deserved status as a creative visionary.

But behind-the-scenes, there was a low-profile star, Lorena “Lorie” Meier, Don’s wife for 68 years, who ran the business end with a firm hand and unfailing competence.

Sadly, on June 22, 2018, Lorie Meier died at age 100.

Don said, “without her, the success of Wild Kingdom couldn’t have happened.” Regardless whether Don was traveling into the wild, or back home, Lorie attended to all the financial matters at the company’s Chicago office. She dealt with the lawyers, bankers, insurance companies and ad agencies and occasionally helped in the film editing department.

Lorie Meier was bookkeeper for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” during its 25 year television run. She frequently helped review and edit film for many episodes of the popular wildlife television program. (Photo Courtesy Don Meier)

“She was the General in charge of everything. She ran the place,” said Don. “It just naturally evolved that I could go any place in the world and take as long as it took, and I knew that things were being taken care of honestly and completely and efficiently, which she did.”

(Watch the documentary: “Exploring the Wild Kingdom”) 

Lorie was born in Warren, Ohio on September 26, 1917. She graduated from high school in Milwaukee and studied piano at Marquette University. In her early 20s, she worked as an executive assistant for top-level managers at Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee, then moved to Chicago to take similar positions at various corporate offices.

She met Don during an industry/social event at the downtown Playboy Club in 1946, and in 1950 they married. She continued to work as an executive assistant at Esquire Magazine and then an advertising firm until teaming up with her husband after he formed Don Meier Productions.

“She was not only a wife, she was a partner, she was an advisor, she was a supporter. She was everything, and never for a moment did she relinquish that role. My life became full when I met her. There was never a time when I could not depend on her 100 percent and she the same way with me.” (Don Meier, husband of Lorie Meier) 

In her spare time, Lorie loved to garden and took great pride in bringing creative landscape designs to life. “The place used to look like a botanical garden,” said Don. “She had all these different species of flowers, and flower beds all around the yard but her favorite were always the daises.”

“My Great Aunt Lorena has always been a major inspiration to me,” said Lorie’s niece Kelsey Bennett. “She had her dreams, created goals to meet them, and through her tenacity, made her dreams come true.” Kelsey said.

“She was happy-go-lucky and vivacious and fun,“ said Lorie’s nephew, Bob Bennett. “She knew when to work hard and when to enjoy herself.”

“She was an incredibly loving, caring and compassionate woman, yet very down to earth,” said Doreen Pizzato, a former employee who remained her close friend for 49 years. “There wasn’t anything she did that she didn’t do incredibly well. She was one of the most classically elegant women I have ever known.”

Lorie and Don Meier are long-time donors to the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Don Meier earned his broadcast journalism degree from CoJMC. Over the year’s the Meier’s have continued to sponsor scholarships for dozens of CoJMC students.

“Our college could not have asked for greater friends and supporters than Don and Lorie,” said CoJMC professor Barney McCoy, producer of an hour-long documentary on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” “Their financial support of our college has made it possible for dozens of Nebraska students from across our state to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” said CoJMC Interim Dean Amy Struthers. “The Meier’s legacy of giving will make it possible for many future generations of Nebraskans to afford a college education.”

Lorie Meier was the loving daughter of the late Marie and Marvin Olson and dear sister of the late Donald (the late Virginia) Bennett. She is survived by her beloved husband of 68 years, Donald Meier; her loving nieces and nephews; James (Denise) Bennett, Donna Bennett, Bob (Diane) Bennett, Lori Bennett, Mary Bennett (Eric Munkwitz) and many grand nieces and nephews. She is also survived by Don’s numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

A very special mention and “Thank You” to Lorie’s in-home caregiver Jessica Salinas, for all she did and meant to Lorie during the last year and a half of her life.

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Black Jack Pershing: Love and War

My latest documentary project “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” is in distribution. Here’s the documentary’s trailer.

For more information on the documentary go to

His name was John “Black Jack” Pershing and his roots ran deep in 20th century America. He commanded 2 million U.S. troops that helped win World War I and changed the world. America became a global superpower. General “Black Jack” Pershing was his nation’s highest-ranking officer. Behind Pershing’s iron exterior stood a man who endured great personal tragedy and heartbreak.

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Insect Labor Day

What natural beauty lies and flies under our noses this Labor Day weekend in my Lincoln, Nebraska yard. The insect world is busy gathering nourishment for the cooler fall and winter temperatures that will begin arriving in the months ahead. I shot this with my Samsung 7 smartphone and a JVC GY-HM600 ProHD video camera. Courtesy music: Nevada City by Huma-Huma.

Labor Day for insects from CoJMC on Vimeo.

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A relection – 15 years ago : “From one who was there. In memory of 9/11.” 

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Samsung’s Galaxy 7: Not all it’s cracked up to be?

Pardon my pun but it’s the point of this blog. Don’t drop the Samsung Galaxy S7 because the glass may be easier to break than previous versions of the popular Galaxy phone.

Photo: Courtesy

Photo: Courtesy

I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S7 this month. I think the photo and video components (sharpness, low light sensitivity, etc.) and longer lasting battery life are outstanding. I like the ability to add micro sd card memory to the phone. It’s also water and dust resistant for weather elements. Overall, the S7 is an excellent communications tool.

What disappoints me about the Galaxy S7? When dropped, it’s easy to break or crack the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the Galaxy S7. If you do- it’s expensive to replace. The standard Samsung S7 warranty doesn’t cover replacement costs for accidental damage to the phone.

I have read about repair and replacement costs for broken S7 screens in the $200-$270 range. Ouch! Or you can try and fix a broken S7 screen yourself for about $142.

You can get a two-year Samsung Protection Plus warranty when you buy the phone for $129. I wasn’t aware of this when I bought the phone. Even if I had been, I’m not sure I would have bought the extra warranty coverage. It allows up to two replacements in a 12 month period for accidental damage claims but you may also get hit with a $79 deductible cost for each of those two claims.

This AT&T commercial for the Samsung Galaxy S7 suggests that it’s durable enough to survive a tumble down brick steps and a dunk in a mud puddle.


Again- Here’s the S7 bouncing off that brick step:

Below is a photo of my Galaxy S7’s front glass after it bounced on my concrete driveway. It didn’t survive the 3-foot fall after slipping out of my shirt pocket as I bent over to pick a ripe tomato from a potted tomato plant perched on my driveway. So much for the S7 phone’s durability.


My Samsung Galaxy S7 cracked front glass after it fell from my shirt pocket when I bent over to pick a tomato from a potted tomato plant in my driveway.

In the meantime, I’ve ordered an Otterbox Commuter Series case ($34.95) to protect the phone. I’m hoping the broken glass won’t spider web its way across the rest of my S7’s front glass display. If it does I may have no choice but to fork over a couple of hundred bucks to have it replaced-Perhaps with another competitor’s phone.

One last thing Samsung: Perhaps you might consider giving your customers the same benefit HTC offers it’s customers with the Uh Oh Damage Protection Plan. The HTC plan covers accidental damage (free replacement) to its flagship phone during the first 12 months after a customer’s purchase. It covers cracked glass.

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Muhammad Ali: My version

ali4The news of Muhammad Ali’s death seemingly caught everyone’s attention last Friday. Especially those of us, and there are many, who met him personally.

Ali touched so many lives. I was in awe of his brash confidence and exquisite boxing skills while growing up in the 1960’s. I admired that Ali was a strong and active supporter of the civil rights movement.

In my late teens, I was deeply impressed with Ali’s stand as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war in 1967. It would cost him his heavyweight title, Ali faced time in federal prison, and Ali would ultimately sacrifice an untold boxing fortune during the four years he was banished from the boxing ring. In 1971, his federal conviction for resisting the draft was overturned by an 8-0 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court.

As one Boston newspaper columnist noted, “While white men with means left for Canada to avoid Vietnam, Ali didn’t run and hide, he stood his ground and fought.”

After Ali was cleared of wrongdoing by the U.S. Supreme Court he took his first shot at regaining the heavyweight title with a fight against reigning champion Joe Frazier. Ali lost that first comeback bid to Frazier. He had his jaw broken the next year in another losing fight to heavy hitter Ken Norton.

Ali didn’t surrender. He beat champion George Forman in Zaire in 1974. In a 1975 rematch with Frazier, Ali regained the heavyweight title in the “Thrilla in Manila” 15 round boxing bout before a huge international audience in the Philippines. Ali boasted that his fight against Frazier would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.” Many boxing critics call it the greatest fight in heavyweight history. 

I admired that Ali stood as a symbol of black male pride and yet he inspired me too in the 1970’s; a young, white teen growing up in Kansas. He inspired people of all races and creeds. He was courageous in the face of adversity. He stood firm on his moral and religious beliefs. He persevered and became a transcendent figure who was globally respected and recognized. This old BBC video clip from 1971 reveals a young Ali’s personality better than any I’ve seen.  

In 1978, Muhammad Ali is pictured with daughters Laila (9 months) and Hana (2 years). (Getty Images)

In 1978, Muhammad Ali is pictured with daughters Laila (9 months) and Hana (2 years). (Getty Images)

Ali married four times. He had seven daughters and two sons. Ali supported and remained present in the lives of them all.

This is not to say Ali was perfect.He had flaws too as many, most of us, have had in our lives. The sum of Ali’s life though, I believe, outshines those flaws.

A memory highlight of my life was being invited to introduce Ali at an Islamic dinner in Dearborn, Michigan in the early 1990’s. It was the faith Ali had immersed himself in years before he was stripped of his boxing title. It was the faith that gave Ali’s life deeper personal spiritual relevance and meaning.

I was accompanied by wife Joanne Lohr McCoy and dear friend and former WKBD-TV colleague Amyre Makupson.

ali2I couldn’t have been more nervous that night. I probably gave one of the worst introductory speeches of my life. Even so, Ali could not have been more gracious. He was patient and accepting of me that night, even as Parkinson’s disease had already begun to deeply weigh on Ali’s life, changing it forever.

aliSomething else. That night Ali gave me a gift of a set of autographed boxing gloves. He said it was to remind me that we all must be willing to fight for our beliefs. I have treasured this always.

We knew the end would come sooner to Ali because of his disease. Learning of Ali’s death last Friday at age 74 still took my breath away. Watching his physical demise was heart-wrenching, yet it revealed the enduring beauty of Ali’s spiritual side and his deep faith in a power that existed far beyond the bounds of his once mighty body. There will never be another like him.

To me Ali was the personification of greatness and grace. With Ali there was always heart and hope. A bit of the hope Ali inspired in others rubbed off on me too. He was the greatest athlete of my life. Greater yet, Muhammad Ali remains a role model for me and people around the world.

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San Jose Mercury News: Credibility suffers when content and advertising clash

Did you read the news story about the sexual harassment charges flying at one of America’s most prominent college campuses?


The writers and editors of the San Jose Mercury News knew a great deal about the story. They did an excellent job producing the report.

But is the newspaper aware of questionable sponsored advertising that appears with the story and others like it on the San Jose Mercury News website?  

The San Jose Mercury News report detailed the firing of a University of California, Berkeley assistant basketball coach who admitted propositioning a reporter for sex.

It was a solid story by competent journalists at the San Jose Mercury News. It included specific facts, good sourcing of information, and efforts were made to contact all parties involved in the case.

Here’s the story lede:

“In an explosive admission, fired UC Berkeley assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel told a campus investigator that he tried to lure a female reporter up to his apartment for sex after a game last year and later joked in a text about having her over for sex with him and his friend.”

The story reported new details that emerged last week after the university’s release of documents from the sexual harassment case that cost Hufnagel his job. It happened days before the U.C. Berkeley Bears men’s team began play in the NCAA basketball tournament.

The story also mentioned:

“But the revelations come less than week after a lawsuit brought to light the minor sanctions handed to former law school dean Sujit Choudhry after a campus investigation found he had routinely subjected his assistant to unwanted hugs, kisses and caresses.”

“Also last year, another powerful faculty member — astronomer Geoff Marcy — was allowed to keep his job after a campus investigation found that he sexually harassed students for nearly a decade. Marcy resigned in October after the news caused an international outcry and the majority of his colleagues called for his termination.”

Questionable advertising?

I mention these details because one component of sexual harassment often involves the sexual objectification of those who are targets of harassment. That’s why I had questions about the sponsored (also called “click bait”) advertising that accompanied the San Jose Mercury News sexual harrassment story. It looked like this:Mercury_Selected_for_you_by_a_sponsor


Here’s the sexual objectification definition

“Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity.”- Wikipedia

Here are two more examples of the San Jose Mercury News click bait advertising that rotate into its story about sexual harassment at U.C. Berkeley: 








Here’s another San Jose Mercury News story about a San Jose high school assistant track coach arrested on suspicion of having sex with two students. 


Here’s the advertising that goes with the story.   


It’s not only the San Jose Mercury News. Other news websites carry similar sponsored advertising and often don’t know what advertising is paired with the news stories they produce. That’s not an excuse. It’s an observation. It can also be a credibility problem for news organizations. Would they knowingly allow sexually suggestive advertising to be paired with a story about sexual harassment. Would they allow an advertisement about the “31 Richest Adult Entertainers Of All Time” appearing with a news story about an assistant track coach charged with suspicion of having sexual relationships with two students to be in good taste? If so, why? If not, who’s minding the content on the news organization’s website?

I emailed and left phone messages for Randy Keith, the managing editor responsible for all digital content on the San Jose Mercury News website. I asked him to answer these questions:

Are you aware of the advertising content that appear with your news stories on your website?

What written policies and criteria do you use to consider the appropriateness of advertising content in its pairing with news content that appear on your website?

Who decides which ads are displayed with news content on your website?

Does someone at your organization screen the advertising content appearing on your website with the news stories produced by your reporters?

How much advertising revenue is generated by sponsored ads appearing on the San Jose Mercury News website?

After two days, I had not received a reply. I then called the Mercury News “breaking news” desk and spoke with a helpful staffer. He said he would forward my emails to Keith and Bert Robinson, managing editor of print for the Mercury News. Robinson is responsible for the newspaper’s Bay Area and statewide news coverage. Another 24 hours passed. I received no reply.

Here’s something else to consider: The San Jose Mercury News makes money from those sponsored click bait advertising. I’m guessing quite a bit of money. According to Cision Digital Research, The Mercury News’ website averages 1.5 million unique visitors each month. Every time a reader clicks one of those sponsored story links, the newspaper makes money.

You’ll have to ask the publisher of the San Jose Mercury News to tell you exactly how much they make from those questionable ads.  Then ask them why they allow this to happen at all.

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