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.