I haven't had to find any old articles on the L.A. Times site for at least a few months, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the advertisement above, for the gun above, plastered into an op-ed I published six years ago in which I argued for a handgun ban. Just after the opening quote from a Yeats poem--"What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?" And right above the first paragraph: "Three years ago, a San Pedro woman...decided to buy a gun....She then shot and killed her daughter and her daughter's fiancé, my brother David."
In triple-size font. Then, ten more giant "Ads by Google" plastered inside the article text--for body armor, firearms training, bulletproof vests, gun holsters, gun cabinets. With an ad for an "Am I a Hot Mom?" quiz--in a piece, remember, that recounted how a mother murdered her daughter.
To the Los Angeles Times: You are using my anti-gun pieces, in which I argued for a gun ban as the only way to reduce the horrific homicide rate in the U.S., to sell guns. Do you care? Because I think it is unconscionable.
I checked a 2005 op-ed I had written about the barriers to public access in Malibu: Triple-size ads for gates. My recent op-ed that argued against the Victims Bill of Rights Act in the November election? "Free sex offender report."
Google (aka "do no harm" Google) must of course just generate ads based on keywords in the article titles. But it doesn't take a genius to predict the results. Articles on botched plastic surgeries: That should bring up ads for breast enhancements. Article on all the Americans who can't get health insurance?: Get your health insurance here. Your child killed in a bike accident?: Find the news coverage in the L.A. Times, and you can locate a great bike repair shop.
What is the New York Times ad policy?--just out of curiosity. I checked my op-eds in the archives. There's one little ad in the top right corner--for an upcoming movie.
I have stood by the L.A. Times passionately during the Zell regime, while a man who cares little for either journalism or Los Angeles, and who has shown nothing but contempt for the essential public role of newspapers, has torn the paper I love in the city I love, and the paper's journalistic standards, limb from limb.
I will continue to rely on and subscribe to the Times as long as so many superb writers and editors continue to write and publish it. But when I sell a piece to a newspaper, I sell them the right to do with it as they wish. And I did not expect even Zell's Times to use my work and ideas to sell its soul and to break my heart.