Patterico's Pontifications

1/9/2008

L.A. Times Mishandles Debacle of Parade Magazine Running Story Suggesting Bhutto Is Still Alive

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:57 am

The Dinosaur Media was never so laughable as it was last Sunday, when readers opening the L.A. Times saw a Parade insert that suggested Benazir Bhutto was still alive.

I don’t get the dead trees edition of the paper, but Eugene Volokh does. On January 6, he wrote this post:

Today’s Parade Insert in the L.A. Times has a big picture of Benazir Bhutto, with the headline “Is Benazir Bhutto America’s best hope against al-Qaeda? ‘I Am What the Terrorists Most Fear.’ An interview from Pakistan by Gail Sheehy.”

I know these things are printed some days before they’re distributed — still, given that she was assassinated 10 days ago, couldn’t something have been done? Even an insert noting the situation and explaining the time lag might be better than nothing, though I’d think that even a total reprint would be justified, despite the costs. And, yes, I know it’s just Parade, but it’s inserted in the Times, and reflects on the Times’ brand as well.

I didn’t blog this when I first saw Eugene’s item, because I wasn’t sure what, if anything, The Times had done to notify readers. I have since learned that the paper handled it the same way they handle corrections: they put a small note in a box on Page A2.

But guess what? As even the Readers’ Rep acknowledges: “Not everyone saw the note.”

Because, you see, hardly anyone reads that little stuff on Page A2. The front page, they read. Page A2, not so much.

The paper’s poor handling of the incident led to over a hundred complaints.

Is only Parade to blame — or does the L.A. Times need to accept some responsibility? A commenter at Romenesko says her paper’s handling of the matter was not ideal:

But I think those of us at individual newspapers have to take some responsibility too. My paper published a 1-inch “Note to Our Readers” on Page A2. Now, maybe the best we could do was an editor’s note; I don’t know how difficult (or maybe impossible) it would have been for individual newspapers to reject the insert. But considering just how … *shocking*, really, this issue of Parade looked falling out of the Sunday paper, we should have put the note on the front page — and probably should have apologized, too, for our inability to do more.

This does somehow seem symptomatic, as [commenter Stephanie] Salter suggests, of the current arrogance and ignorance of the industry.

Indeed, and kudos to the commenter for saying so.

You know, someone once suggested that when the Los Angeles Times (or indeed any paper) makes a prominent mistake, it should be corrected on Page One. Who said that again? Oh, right — me, on the pages of the L.A. Times. The reason is that most people read the front page — so prominent mistakes deserve to be corrected there.

Well, guess what? I was right. (I love saying that!)

When you have a huge magazine insert that suggests a prominent political leader is alive — and that leader was assassinated ten days earlier — Page A2 doesn’t cut it. When you have a big mistake, only Page One will do for the correction.

It’s about time the L.A. Times learned that.

20 Responses to “L.A. Times Mishandles Debacle of Parade Magazine Running Story Suggesting Bhutto Is Still Alive”

  1. I thought it was proper to run the story especially with the headline implying that the terrorists want to kill her. People understood it was written before the assassination.

    Alta Bob (15dc2c)

  2. I’m not sure I think they should have killed the story, costing millions and violating a contractual obligation. I’m just saying that readers should have been told about it on Page One.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  3. For Christ sake, Patterico; it’s the readers responsibility to ignore stories they disagree with. The LAT is just the messenger. This continuing avoidance of responsibility by the readership, the consumer, or the newspaper stand vendors is the problem.

    “Leave the poor LAT alone.”

    Howard Veit (cc8b85)

  4. My local paper (central Pennsylvania) distributed this issue of Parade, but had a prominent PAGE ONE explanation/warning.

    RB (fbae5a)

  5. people are dying who never died before!

    assistant devil's advocate (e8cb06)

  6. For what it’s worth, the Washington Post carried the same Parade article, and I didn’t notice any “correction” or note of any kind in the newspaper proper indicating the updated information. But then again I didn’t look for a correction. Why would I?

    Tim K (7e41e8)

  7. Today’s LA Times commentary section had a correction of a correction. The correction of the correction ran in the same spot as the correction. It’s a start.

    TomHynes (6c3e12)

  8. Well, in terms of Parade Magazine. The day of the assassination, they did release a statement discussing the cover story. http://www.parade.com/benazir_bhutto_interview.html

    G (722480)

  9. molehill —-> mountain. this is, after all, parade magazine, which prints stories like bigfoot: fact or fiction? experts weigh in!

    assistant devil's advocate (bc66de)

  10. Our local rag The Atlanta Urinal & Constipation (oops, sorry, the Atlanta Journal & Constitution) printed a notice on the front page (mid-fold) indicating the problem.

    My reaction was the same as yours Patterico. For cryin’ out loud USA today has been printed daily at presses all over the country for years. How could a weekly insert not be revised with a 10 day advance notice?

    Kevin (33b929)

  11. Nobody seems to mention that the story had the situation backwards. The terrorists were Bhutto’s biggest fear, or should have been. I didn’t read it but doubt that it mentioned that Bhutto had more to do wth Osama establishing himself in Afghanistan than anyone else. I do understand there were some critical comments about Bhutto’s time as PM.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  12. They just wanted to see if anyone was actually reading it.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  13. Well it’s bad, kind of reverse prophecy in a certain sense. A point left unsaid, if they’re are gunning for you; as the October hit was a real close call; don’t make it easy for them to hit you again. However, the cake is still taken by the NY Times magazine profile of a raped Iraq
    war veteran;Amorita Randall, who hadn’t been raped or been stationed in Iraq. And they knew about that fact a week before the story went to air.

    narciso (c36902)

  14. The Orange County Register also included this issue of Parade, and if they ran a notice I certainly didn’t see it.

    Jack Bauer's Evil Brother (23993e)

  15. Of course, the LAT could have chosen this circumstance to print a front page story as to where Pakistan stands right now. The starting point of the article would have been the Parade article.

    I know I didn’t go to one of the sacred journalism schools, but in the real world of media, I learned that advancing the story was a critical function of anyone who gives a damn about their audience and this world.

    The LAT had a perfect chance to create a win-win and typically was blind to it.

    Oh, and if the front page is so sacrosanct, why have I sen advertisements covering it up lately?

    Ed (b24a6d)

  16. Ed, you certainly would not make it in journalism. You don’t have our well-tuned, finely crafted, infallible news judgment about what’s really important.

    All kidding aside, that was an excellent suggestion — it would have magnificently driven the point home about the suddenness and magnitude of the disaster.

    Bradley J. Fikes (8f5025)

  17. bearing in mind that my understanding of the process dates from when the LA Times actually paid local people to distribute it (early 70′s): the locked parts of the sunday edition would arrive already preassembled, with only the time dependent parts (literally) warm off the presses. we still had to assemble them as we rolled to the news racks, stands, stores, etc…..

    the Herald was different, as the parts were delivered during the week and we assembled them in situ, waiting for the time sensitive sections at 0Dark30.

    regardless: 10 days is *WAY* more Times than what is needed to intercept this f**k up.

    IMHO, of course….. %-)

    redc1c4 (48a20b)

  18. So how long before the Kossacks start describing her assasination in sneer quotes and claiming it was all orchestrated by the Bush Administration to justify a war in Iran?

    Sean P (e57269)

  19. Are they still running headlines reading DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN or TITANIC SAFE

    krazy kagu (1ced21)


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