Poynter's E-Media Tidbits called foul on the Washington Post for display an ad before a slideshow from the bridge collapse. They're absolutely right, it's completely distasteful. A smart commenter points out that tragedy drives a lot of traffic. So what to do?

To me, the issue is the way the ad was deployed and not its right to exist. Anything that keeps me from viewing content is going to cause frustration and when I am already distraught, my patience is non-existent. Whether it was due to the blog post or some other factor, the ad is now down. There is still an ad above the slideshow, but no on seems up in arms about it.

What really matters is respecting the mood of your audience. My best example is my local Fox newscast. No, I'm not talking about the ads between the segments, I'm talking about the news itself. I remember one time just after 9/11 when there was a teaser for the 9pm news that went something like this:

News lady: We speak to a family of one of the THREE THOUSAND killed.
News man: Two men were found brutally murdered by a group of unruly teens
News lady: Here comes fall fashion!
News man: Is your house safe from lead poisoning? FIND OUT.
News lady: Indian summer just won't quit!

All of this happened without skipping a beat and I nearly vommitted. In the end, it comes down to common sense. WaPo is a huge national newspaper and I'm sure leaving the ad there was accidental. From the brief glimpse, it appears to be an ad featuring a car racing around tight corners and I don't think they're stupid enough to leave that running intentionally.