Patterico's Pontifications

10/6/2010

L.A. Times’s Fake Front Pages Nothing New — And Doing Nothing to Save the Paper

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:06 am



In a fascinating David Carr column about the trainwreck that is Tribune Company’s management, we find these nuggets about the dying Los Angeles Times:

While its television division has since done well in the advertising rebound — over all, the 23 stations are on track in 2010 to pass $1 billion in revenue for the first time since 2007 — Tribune’s newspapers have continued to underperform the rest of the industry.

Advertising has been inserted into The Los Angeles Times in new and unsettling ways. In March, an ad mimicking the front page for Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” was wrapped around the first section and in July, a fake version of the newspaper’s section for late breaking news, called LATExtra, was wrapped around the real one, promoting Universal Studios’ King Kong attraction, with a lead “story” that read “Universal Studios Partially Destroyed.” In April 2009, an advertisement posing as a news article about NBC’s new show “Southland” appeared on the front page.

In July, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the governing body of the county of Los Angeles, sent a letter of protest, saying that the use of advertising disguised as news “makes a mockery of the newspaper’s mission.”

The ads do not seem to have helped. The Chicago Tribune’s circulation continues to slide, with weekday circulation down 9.8 percent in the first half of 2010. The Los Angeles Times is in worse shape, having lost 14.7 percent of its weekday circulation in the period. (Over all, the industry lost 8.7 percent weekly circulation in the period.)

I guess that fake front page we discussed recently is nothing new. Good to see it’s paying dividends!

It appears it is not too popular at the paper, either:

“You have advertising wrapping around sections and being disguised as news and empty desks all around you, and then you read about these ridiculous bonuses and feathering their nests with severances, you want to scream,” said Steve Lopez, a longtime columnist at The Los Angeles Times.

Steve, your paper has had fake stories disguised as news for quite some time, in case you hadn’t noticed. At first, it made me want to scream. Then I cancelled my subscription. I’m much calmer nowadays.

Looks like more and more people are taking my pathway to peace.

I used to want the paper to survive, and just get better. Then I got pissed off, and wanted it to die. Now I’m just getting bored waiting for the inevitable death to become final. Die, already, L.A. Times. Get on with it.

22 Responses to “L.A. Times’s Fake Front Pages Nothing New — And Doing Nothing to Save the Paper”

  1. Randy Michaels has responded in the only way he knows how: deny everything.

    From: Tribune Communications
    Sent: Tue Oct 05 20:09:33 2010
    Subject: Message from Randy Michaels/Anticipated Column About Tribune

    We have been informed that tomorrow’s New York Times will run a column written by David Carr (http://www.nightofthegun.com/#). Many of the questions Mr. Carr asked us for this article concerned events, distortions and rumors more than two years old. He will apparently paint the work environment at Tribune as hostile, sexist and otherwise inappropriate. Many of the rumors Mr. Carr referenced were spread by an ex-Chicago Tribune employee who is now a contributing writer to the New York Times. Mr. Carr has made clear that he is digging up these old allegations because he believes that decisions about the company’s management are about to be made, and he wants to influence those decisions. Mr. Carr knows that an outside firm investigated the most substantial of these allegations, and that they were found to be without substance. Mr. Carr intends to use them anyway.

    As you know, it is our intention to create a fun, non-linear creative environment. I am tremendously proud of the results of that creative culture. Our websites on the P2P platform are the most advanced in media. We have reconfigured production of the newspaper with standard ad sizes, Media on Demand Modules, and combined editing, design, and layout functions using technology. We have “Breaking News Centers” that eliminate redundancy and give newsmakers one contact point for each market’s most powerful news media. TOPS, TONS, and BRUTUS have changed the way TV is produced and aired. . . .

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (fb9e90)

  2. At its peak in 1997-1998, daily circulation at the LA Times was 1.1 million. Now its 610,000. Newspaper circulation is down everywhere, but I can’t think of any other high profile newspaper that has atrophied as much as the Times has during this period.

    Sean P (a82c1f)

  3. Advertising is there to generate revenue: Shouldn’t they try just about anything to pull it in – even a fake wrap? If it’s not working, then try something else. That’s why they’re called Advertising.

    Also, it isn’t poor advertising that’s caused the lack of papers selling and circ dropping – it’s the lack of credibility and quality that reporters themselves have garnered. Until that root problem is addressed, it would seem everything else is superfluous.

    Steve Lopez included.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  4. Dana,
    I know that ads pay the bills, but Carr said the wrap ads don’t appear to have helped. So they have given the LAT the worst of both worlds.

    On your other suggestion, Zell and his lieutenants are in no position to add credibility to the LA Times. Zell knows zilch about journalism, and neither do the clowns who are setting policy. They certainly don’t know about fairness or accuracy.

    I don’t think the LA Times will die anytime soon, but it will keep on playing the part of The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (da7923)

  5. Well you Patterico as well as McClatchy WAtch, and
    other associate watchdogs have proven they have a problem getting five Ws right on any given day, but
    as the email proves, their interest lies in a ‘non linear creative environment’ whatever the heck that is

    ian cormac (6709ab)

  6. I’m guessing that the Spanish language newspapers in the LA area are doing very well.

    I wonder what the correlation would be?

    Former LA resident.

    Steve (9e7108)

  7. I suspect that ad revenue is down for all the major “liberal” rags. Can anyone confirm?

    GM Roper (a0b04a)

  8. Lopez is angry that the wraps have hurt the paper’s credibility, but the writing of people like Lopez and the editors’ decisions on story selection have hurt the paper even more — you don’t lose half a million subscriptions that fast just because of the Internet or an ad that’s covering up Page One.

    John (e3fdad)

  9. At its peak in 1997-1998, daily circulation at the LA Times was 1.1 million. Now its 610,000

    This means that a nearly 15% loss is not nearly as bad as it once would have been. Good News!

    quasimodo (4af144)

  10. I worked in radio when Michael’s got his start, and his stewardship during the Clear Channel buying spree across the country has resulted in homogenized formats in every market, as well as the “Morning Zoo” idiocies. They also crammed in more commercials per hour than previously thought possible, I think it’s something like 26 minutes/hour these days (not including Talk/News formats, which are even worse). Now the radio business is getting killed by alternative forms of media – gee, wonder why, Randy?

    The TribCo also ran the Cubs for the better part of the last three decades. ’nuff said.

    Dmac (84da91)

  11. I wrote to the editior by mail in ’06 when they described a father that was being deported; he made $18.00 hrly under the table and now,…he was having his family “torn apart” and I stated to them that this guy made more than I did, was a homeowner, and how is he deemed so noble, etc.

    The terrible ommission of the Bologna Family murders story in ’08….which they reported finally weeks after the event is evidence that they have NO objective standards, are a complete disgrace.

    The Chandler’s lost their bid in 2007 to keep the paper (coincidence?). They were futsy…but now? I get a copy of LAT free in my office, this week I declined completely…even for free!

    Here’s info on Hoy (*which is cheaper than LAT) September 16, 2010|By Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times
    Los Angeles Times Media Group plans to increase distribution of Hoy Fin de Semana, the weekend edition of Hoy, the company’s Spanish-language newspaper, by 40% early next month.

    The move will boost circulation of the free weekend publication to 700,000 copies from 500,000, according to a statement to be released Thursday by the company, a unit of Chicago-based Tribune Co.

    Very low percentage of articles about local citizens struggling through this rough economy. They bug me… a lot!

    dudeabides (7b2c6d)

  12. wait wait wait…

    It’s wrapped *around* the paper?

    So this is really the front page? I thought it was just shoved in the middle. They’d be crazy to have a fake front page because that’s all you’d see in a paper stand, or walking by!

    So that’s why the Law and Order one was sensationalist. They are inventing fake terrorism stories. If it bleeds it leads, even if it’s an ad.

    Dang.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  13. Every time a daily paper dies, it’s democracy that dies somehow. (Keith Olbermann)

    No surprise you guys can’t wait for the LAT to pass away. Hopefully it won’t and keep pissing the far right off.

    Triumph (0692b1)

  14. When I like to pretend some position is only held by the ‘far right’ and that the right is way too ‘pissed off’, I like to cite Keith Olbermann, too, Triumph. He’s so universally trusted and tempered.

    And democracy i2 in action, btw, when only 12% of the public trusts Olbermann, but 50% trust Fox News.

    Over time, it seems being a more balanced news organization is somehow related to being influential. Whining about your propaganda papers being democracy sounds very defensive. Maybe you’re hoping for a little fascism? Maybe the feds can buy a controlling stake in your precious papers?

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  15. Just what in Hell is “… a fun, non-linear creative environment…”, and what does it have to do with informing the public of the events of the day?

    …a bunch of Post-Modernist Morons!

    AD-RtR/OS! (fe9f09)

  16. The Chicago Tribune’s circulation continues to slide, with weekday circulation down 9.8 percent in the first half of 2010. The Los Angeles Times is in worse shape, having lost 14.7 percent of its weekday circulation in the period.

    Sean P. added, “At its peak in 1997-1998, daily circulation at the LA Times was 1.1 million. Now its 610,000.

    Taken together, those indicate that the L.A. Times lost about 100k circulation in the first six months of 2010.

    The good news is that they can only do that six more times, because at that point they won’t have 100k subscribers to lose.

    If the LATimes response really is an “intention to create a fun, non-linear creative environment“, then the end will come sooner rather than later.

    The only question remaining is when, and whether the final selling price of the whole shebang will be over or under $1.

    Looking Glass (c038de)

  17. Triumph: thanks for the quote from Keith Olbermann. That just made everything right in my day. sarc\\

    PatAZ (9d1bb3)

  18. I roll my eyes every time I hear this newspapers = democracy nonsense, and I work at a newspaper.

    A little humility would help journalism; this grandiose, insecure boasting sure doesn’t.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (a18ddc)

  19. @ Bradley,

    I know that ads pay the bills, but Carr said the wrap ads don’t appear to have helped. So they have given the LAT the worst of both worlds.

    As I commented yesterday, advertising will do this as long as they make money. If this doesn’t make money, they’ll try something else.

    At the end of the day it’s a failing business with a built-in internal opposition between Advertising and News, with both believing themselves indispensable to the success of the paper. And in a way, they both are.

    But perhaps that bailout will save the day:

    The Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as non-profits, if they choose, under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, similar to public broadcasting. Under this arrangement, newspapers would not be allowed to make political endorsements, but would be allowed to freely report on all issues, including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt and contributions to support coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

    The measure is targeted to preserve local newspapers serving communities and not large newspaper conglomerates. Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent years, no substantial loss of federal revenue is expected.

    Dana (8ba2fb)

  20. Even in a lame-duck session, they’ll never get this turkey through the Senate; and, next year it’s DOA!

    AD-RtR/OS! (fe9f09)

  21. _________________________________________

    The Chandler’s lost their bid in 2007 to keep the paper (coincidence?).

    I believe they wanted to bail on the newspaper/media biz. In hindsight, their timing was just under the wire — before the economy really started to tank — and their instincts were correct.

    The LA Times faces the twin problems of competing with the Internet and operating in a region where more and more of its population not only doesn’t speak English, but much of it isn’t particularly literate—ie, the persistently high drop-out rates of Latino students.

    Beyond that, if people want to see how really hacked up and worthless a paper can become, all they have to do is note the ongoing demise of the San Francisco Chronicle. That paper’s circulation is becoming as modest as that of a small town’s daily, and its quality isn’t far behind.

    Mark (411533)

  22. I had a mini-fantasy daydream yesterday about a heroic resurrection of the paper…..sad on two levels; that it was about a paper and well, that it- (the paper) requires salvaging.

    I went to Hoy’s url today…they have a section on: Inmigracion I recognize LAT has a section like this too…but not at the level of 100% advocacy….yet!

    http://www.vivelohoy.com/noticias/inmigracion/

    Also, look no further if you are shopping for recursos/ resource services (on right margin). The Trib’s unfortunate betrayals seem wholly complete.

    Six years ago LAT was bona fide at least a contender- now it is a bad, pathetic joke; City of Bell coverage or not.

    dudeabides (4af6f8)


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