Several smaller papers around the country today joined the Los Angeles Times in running a fake front news page to promote NBC's new show "Law & Order: Los Angeles." The New York Times also ran the ad section, but did not wrap it around the paper's real front page; they called theirs the "Los Angeles Post," rather than use the paper's real name. When the LAT wrapped its LATExtra section last July with an ad page screaming about a fake disaster at Universal Studios, so many were irked at being momentarily fooled that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sent a protest letter to Sam Zell. This time, reaction seems muted. I mentioned this morning that I had only heard from one angry reader claiming to cancel his subscription. Just to catch up, I received some more email through the day. Samples after the jump, including from a disgusted local journalism department chair. I post them not because I necessarily agree with all the sentiments, but they show how potentially costly this particular kind of ad revenue can be for the Times.
* Added: The Times acknowledged that by noon on Wednesday, the paper had received 61 e-mails, all but one of them critical, and 51 phone calls.
This came from the chair of a local college's academic department that encompasses journalism. I didn't have time to check earlier today whether the prof meant to be identified, so it's posted here without a name.
I picked up a copy of the L.A. Times today and uttered something that can’t be spoken in public. One of the student newspaper advisers walked by and said, “Oh, you see it? I threw it down on the chair and I’m not going to read it.” I think you got little negative reaction from readers to today’s version of journalism prostitution because we have given up on the concept that the L.A. Times has the ethical courage to maintain any distinction between editorial content and advertising.
From a fairly young former L.A. newspaper reporter who has left the business:
I saw your post on the Times' huge ad today and was surprised you hadn't gotten more feedback. I'm gonna write to them after I send this, but thought I'd pass along my sentiments.... While I'm glad they're making money somehow (I hope), I think these fake news displays are slowly eroding their credibility. When I first picked it up off the driveway, I was shocked to see what I thought was a major news event displayed so dramatically. It didn't take too long to figure out it was bogus, but once I had, I lost all interest in reading the paper. Each time they pull a cheap ad stunt like that, it makes me want to pick it up less and less-- and there are certainly an increasing number of days where I don't feel compelled to read at all.
I think this is really a shame-- I love newspapers and I want to love the Times. I think its reporters still do excellent work from time to time, but the quality of the work is noticeably less than it was compared to just a few years ago. I hope ads like this bring in a lot of revenue and keep journalists employed, but I can't say I see any benefit to the consumer. Seeing those ads makes me want to read less, rather than compelling me to buy. And if I could just flip past it and see the same level of great local coverage and thought-provoking pieces I used to enjoy, then I wouldn't mind. Unfortunately, it just doesn't feel that way too much any more.
From John Herbert in Yorba Linda:
Could I suggest that your readers as a whole have pretty much arrived at the conclusion that the LAT is crap and don't feel motivated to write about what is in essence common knowledge to all of us?
I have an excellent e-mail in your archives, one that references the NYT to the LAT; had a few good zingers in it if I recall right. Here's a thought: Why not just re-publish reader's old e-mails to you regarding the Times? It be interesting to see if anything has changed in the interim. Feel free to start with mine!
I saw your item regarding the ad wrapped around the L.A. Times today that appeared to be the front page of the paper. I saw the paper at a newsstand during my usual lunch-time walk and could only shake my head . . . and put the paper down. You used the word “again” indicating that the NBC ad is not a precedent. The fact that this was the first one I’ve seen tells you that I only read the paper occasionally these days. Yet another reason to read it less or not at all in the future.From a frequent reader in San Diego, his punctuation:
You get fewer complaints because the glory days are long gone.....and we expect less of the Times....and we get less.....standards and performance-wise.
Also from San Diego:
I don't take the LAT anymore due to the inability of the new delivery service (read: less expensive) to get it to my San Diego door with any consistency, despite a nasty letter straight to Eddy H. The NY Times has no problems with its delivery as it uses the more expensive service dumped by LAT bean-counters.
So I did a double-take this morning when I opened the blue NY Times bag and first out popped what I thought was the LAT. It took a couple of seconds to glean that this was a four-page "Los Angeles Post " promo by and for NBC.