Worst layout ever? (* Updated)

Marty Kaplan, associate dean of USC Annenberg, takes the Times to task at Eat the Press for Sunday's bizarre inside ad for Time Warner Cable. The ad covers page 37 of the front news section with an image of blue sky and palm trees. Some boilerplate ad copy sits at the bottom. Dropped into the center of the ad is the runover from the front page Sunday lede story on Iraq and two national wire stories. Kaplan:

Maybe it's just me, and maybe I'm overreacting, but I think the Tribune Company of Chicago has just driven the coffin-nail home in the case for its being an unfit owner of the Los Angeles Times...

On first glance, the page looks like a full-page ad for a fun new musical. There's a blue-sky border around three sides, and a page-high frieze of royal palm tree tops. And inset into the page at the top, in black-and-white, is what you might think is a reproduction of a newspaper article, a rave review of the show.

But wait. It's not a review. It's actually the real paper, today's paper.


I've seen "creative" newspaper layouts before, with ingenious ways of interleaving editorial content with advertising. But this one crosses the line. It uses some of the most tragic and painful news of our time as commercial graphic design. It turns news into an attention-getting commodity that drains it of all journalistic content.

It's also jarring to the eye. Could this be a way to make readers more forgiving about the almost-as-unattractive ads on section fronts? If you are going to sacrifice some of your prime visual display spots to advertisers, in effect letting them shape the look of your newspaper's most-read pages, at least force them to design appealing ads. * Related: I'm told an ad for The Last King of Scotland on tomorrow's Calendar front touts reviews from two rival publications.

Link via Romenesko

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