Times admits to ad backlash

It has become a sadly familiar syndrome: L.A. Times ownership or management betrays readers in some new way, gets panned, then the paper reports and publicly reflects on the controversy. I don't know if there's a column by Jim Rainey and/or Tim Rutten in the works, but in a story in tomorrow's paper about the fake-story ad printed on Thursday's front page, publisher Eddy Hartenstein plays the innovation card :

"Because of the times that we're in, we have to look at all sorts of different -- and some would say innovative -- new solutions for our advertising clients," he said....

Hartenstein said the ad netted a "significant premium" over traditional rates but declined to be more specific

Meanwhile, the paper's hold on its print readers keeps slipping, advertisers are wise to the paper's waning standing, and the paper once again gets notice for something other than its journalism. The ad ran over the objections of Editor Russ Stanton — the paper's former innovation editor — and at least a dozen other editors who e-mailed Hartenstein asking that the ad be "withdrawn or revised," the story says. The Times' Readers' Representative blog posts some of the 50+ emails it acknowledges receiving:

One step closer to canceling the subscription ... and there aren't many steps left.

The ongoing deterioration of a once-great newspaper reached a new low this morning.

Every time I think this paper can't get any worse, I'm unpleasantly surprised.

Get back to basics and start over.

The paper has deteriorated -- it is no longer an example of what a fine newspaper should be.

I honestly used to be proud to subscribe to the L.A. Times, but now I'm faced with a new disappointment nearly every edition.

Today, the Los Angeles Times lost its dignity ... and (after 43 years) a reader.

Here's the most poignant of the emails I received today about the Times:

If you are keeping any kind of a count or anything, I cancelled our family subscription to the LA Times today. We've subscribed for about 40 years. The paper's recent decline has been breathtaking.
For us, it was a decision that was much bigger than the monthly forty-six dollars. In our family we're committed to being informed and educated. For two generations we've earned a good living reading, writing and teaching.

When the customer service guy probed for a reason for our cancellation, hinting that I might want to say something about some perceived editorial bias, I told him that the Times's politics had nothing to do with our decision. Any paper that carries advertisements in its most important news space is a throwaway, I said, and it's just foolish to pay for a throwaway paper.

The ugly A1 ad for a television show is just too sad.

Steve Yuchno

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