Did *anyone* like the Los Angeles Times ads?

April 13, 2009

You have to hand it to Sam Zell and his band of outsiders at bankrupt media company Tribune Co. They are going to remake the newspaper business if it kills them.

The gang got broiled for a front-page ad that the Los Angeles Times ran last week that looked like an article. After that outcry, the Tribune-owned paper did it again, this time with another an ad supplement for Paramount’s movie, “The Soloist.” That one includes an interview with Steve Lopez, the Times columnist who wrote the book that became the movie. The ad also ran under the LA Times’s own banner.

As it turns out, nearly everyone who cares enough to talk about these ads in public despises them. You could have said that LA Times employees were just kvetching when they circulated a petition voicing their opposition to the ads — broke down and dispirited by bankruptcy, and repeated waves of layoffs, they stuck to the old line that there needs to be a distinction between ads and editorial copy for various ethical reasons.

Now we can add LA Times Executive Editor John Arthur to the mix. Here’s The Wrap:

Arthur, who was on vacation last week, said he was blindsided by the ad…  The editor said it was initially envisioned to go down the right side of the front page, usually the space reserved for the paper’s lead story. “I’d been told an ad like that was coming, and before my trip I’d complained about it,” he said. “But I was told it was not imminent, that an ad of this shape was weeks or months away — May or June was mentioned to me.”

Arthur was also critical of a four-page advertising supplement about the upcoming Paramount movie “The Soloist,” which was published on Sunday under the signature Los Angeles Times banner. … “I thought the type font that was used in the words ‘The Soloist’ at the top was uncomfortably close to the font we use in section fronts,” Arthur said, adding that he did not know that the supplement was coming either. Lopez could not be reached for comment.

But Lynne Segall, vice president for entertainment advertising at the paper, retorted in an email to TheWrap: “Russ Stanton, his boss, the editor of the paper, approved both advertorial units. The ad department in this company is not in a position nor would we ever be allowed to go out in the market to sell units like this without editorial vetting and giving us permission first.”

The Wrap also noted that Eddy Hartenstein, the paper’s publisher, begged employees to understand that he’s just trying to keep the paper open.

We’ve gotten a bunch of people to talk about this already on another blog entry that we did on this last week. I’d like to bring up another idea, just for argument’s sake:

When we journalists worry that an advertisement in the paper looks deceptively like a news article, aren’t we insulting the intelligence of the readers? In turn, does that make us look like the interior decorators of the elitist ivory tower that so many people say we live in? I’m not saying it’s so; I *am* throwing it out there, however.

(Photo: Reuters)

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Please. The L.A. Times is already so very horrible; this idiocy does little to make it worse. It’s like telling a patient with terminal brain cancer that, alas, it turns out that he also has carpal tunnel syndrome. So what. Let the paper die. It’s been dying for years.

Posted by Augustine | Report as abusive

Good Riddince…the news on both coast..Ny Times and LA Times deserve to simply die…They made their pact with the left to become mimics for every wack job left idea…so..they reap what they sow. Hope they Both Fold.

Posted by Stu | Report as abusive

[...] MediaFile » Blog Archive » Did *anyone* like the Los Angeles Times … [...]