The L.A. Times has invented a new type of opinion piece: the “op-ad.”
Stay with me on this. I promise you that the payoff will be worth it.
Thomas Rooney is the President and CEO of Insituform Technologies, Inc. Here is a screenshot from his company’s web site, with a quote from Mr. Rooney about the “national epidemic” the country faces as a result of bad sewer pipes:
(I have temporarily redacted something from this screenshot, for humor purposes. It will appear unredacted later in the post.)
Luckily, this is a “national epidemic” for which Mr. Rooney’s Insituform Technologies has the cure. You see, Insituform sells and installs new sewer pipes, which replace the old ones causing the “epidemic.” It’s in Rooney’s company’s best interest to make old, deteriorating sewer pipes sound like a real problem.
Here is an ad for Mr. Rooney’s company:
Note the language used at the beginning of the video:
Most sewer pipes were built 60 years ago,
but . . .
. . . but were only meant to last 50 years.
Do the math . . .
Remember that language. You’ll see it again.
As blogger Radosh.net explains, it turns out that someone calling himself “Jim” sent an unsolicited e-mail — what most of us call “spam” — pushing an article penned by Mr. Rooney:
[J]ust two weeks ago I got a[n] unsolicited e-mail from “Jim” with the subject line, “This guy predicted that sinkhole in Guatemala.” You tend to remember spam about sinkholes. I had no idea what “that sinkhole in Guatemala” was, but “this guy” turned out to be Thomas Rooney, and as near as I can tell, Jim wanted me to post an article [Rooney had] written about sinkholes.
(H/t Kaus via Linda S.)
The op-ed happens to discuss the vital issue of (you guessed it) deteriorating sewer pipes.
The blogger discovered that Rooney’s article — the very same piece that “Jim” had quoted in a spam e-mail to Radosh.net — had already been posted online . . . at least twice. It had already appeared (in a slightly different form), in a publication called “Inside the Bay Area,” on December 19, 2006. You can read it here. It contains the following line:
Most water and sewer pipes in America were built 60 years ago, but [were] meant to last 50 years. Do the math . . .
Where have I heard that before?
Oddly, the entire article also ended up getting reproduced, in its entirety, in a blog comment by someone named “Nancy” at this blog site. The date was March 8, 2007 — a little over three weeks ago (and months after the piece first appeared in “Inside the Bay Area”).
And now, you’ll never guess which is the latest publication to publish this “op-ad.”
Well, I suppose you already did guess. I did kind of give you a hint, up at the top of the post.
And in the headline.
Yup, sure enough, here is what confronted me on the L.A. Times web site today:
It looks like “Jim” got to the editors of the L.A. Times! (It’s a little-known fact that the editors are also avid consumers of Viagra and penis-extension devices. Really! Just ask them!)
Yes, it’s the very same piece that “Jim” tried to foist on Radosh.net — and that appeared in “Inside the Bay Area” in December 2006, and in a blog comment over three weeks ago.
You won’t be surprised to learn that, according to Rooney’s piece, it turns out that the problem of old pipes is an “epidemic”:
And this year is shaping up to be even worse. From Hawaii to New York, Alaska to North Carolina and everywhere in between, an epidemic of breaking pipes is causing unprecedented havoc.
Here’s my favorite line from the op-ad:
Yet for all this damage, few people understand how broken pipes create sinkholes. Most water and sewer pipes in the United States were built 60 years ago — but were meant to last 50 years. Do the math.
I’m getting that deja vu feeling — all over again.
The L.A. Times piece ends with this line:
We’re Insituform. We fix more broken sewer pipes than any other company in the world.
No, wait, sorry — that’s wrong. That language is nowhere in the L.A. Times piece. It’s from the video I showed you earlier.
I keep mixing them up.
How does Mr. Rooney feel about having gotten to place an op-ad in today’s L.A. Times? It’s time to unredact that screenshot:
Radosh.net has a pretty convincing explanation for this embarrassment. Remember that the Brian Grazer-edited Current section on Sunday was suddenly killed, meaning that editors had to scramble to put a new one together, quickly. They actually did a pretty good job — but it turns out that the editors robbed Peter to pay Paul. Put simply, they stole the good pieces from the upcoming week, and ran them in Sunday Current.
But that left them with a shortage of good pieces to run during the week. Meaning they had to dig a little deeper than they might have preferred.
Which leads us to the Rooney op-ad.
I might almost feel sorry for L.A. Times editors — except that they somehow don’t seem to have space in their paper for Jack Dunphy.
Jack, I have figured out your problem. You just don’t have the right representation. I think I’ve found the guy who can help you get your pieces placed in the L.A. Times.
His name is “Jim.”
P.S. I know, I know. Maybe old sewer pipes are a real problem. But here’s the thing: if the editors truly felt this was a critical issue, couldn’t they have found someone a little more dispassionate to write about it?