I generally read the papers online, so I hadn’t picked up a hard copy of the Los Angeles Times prior to a phone call advising me that the front page had been turned into an ad. A dummy sheet. A front page lie. I looked and there is was. It had the appearance of a normal front page, the same old trustworthy masthead, but it was actually an ad for “Law and Order – Los Angeles,” disguised to look like the real thing.
I had just finished writing a piece about a new Gallup Poll, indicating a new low in the number of Americans who trust the mass media to report the news. Imagine that.
First the Times put an ad on the front page masquerading as a legitimate news story. Next, we saw an entire LATEXTRA Section turned into an ad for the King Kong feature at Universal Studios, Hollywood. Now this. Now it’s the whole front page.
Oh wait. There was also that “Alice in Wonderland” front page. The line has been crossed so many times, that I’m losing count.
It can be somewhat confusing. But this was different, somehow. This time if felt more like a poorly engineered sucker punch.
My first reaction was to cancel my subscription to the paper. I took a deep breath. I thought it over. This may be beyond belief and there are those who will say it’s unforgivable. They may be right. However, when it comes to the Los Angeles Times, there is still more good than bad. Regardless of what their corporate masters may do, there are still a great many fine journalists in that building. Because of that, we need this newspaper. The country needs this newspaper. Because of that, I am not canceling my subscription. Not yet.
I remember standing in line at the supermarket some years ago and seeing a tabloid with the headline “Pope Declares St. Elvis!” The once mighty Los Angeles Times is just an inch away. Maybe not even an inch. How sad.