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April 12, 2009

Ads as Front Page "News"

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

According to an article linked by Hot Air, Los Angeles Times reporters are in a snit because the newspaper placed an advertisement on its front page. The page in question is shown on the link to HotAir, provided the link is still good.

Hot Air's Ed Morrissey mentions that the paper approached the advertiser (the NBC television network) with the idea of putting a normal ad for a forthcoming show on page 1 and combining it with a news-like article about one of the characters. Given that entertainment is an important local industry that the Times favors in its news coverage, the piece might seem to be a real news item to some readers. On the other hand, the ad is set off by a bolder than normal border and the typeface used is also stronger than that used for editorial material. The faux article has a little colored NBC logo at the top, something real news stories lack. One missing item seems to be the word "Advertisement" that many publications use at the top of the framing to help clarify to readers that something that looks like editorial content really isn't.

Morrissey points out that advertising that looks almost like news stories is a common practice, and notes some of the items I mentioned above. He isn't nearly as upset as the reporters, and neither am I. The Times really should have inserted "Advertisement" above the NBC logo to make the placement truly unambiguous. but otherwise I find nothing ethically wrong.

After all, front page advertising is nothing new. I'm pretty sure that, years ago, my local paper would sometimes have a two-column, three-inch display ad at the lower-right corner. And I'm also pretty sure that the New York Times might have had tiny, classified-like two-line ads at the foot of the page. Or maybe it was the Seattle paper. I do recall seeing such things someplace and I also know that the practice died out on the papers I'm familiar with.

Many years ago, newspapers had lots of advertising on their front pages. Below is part of the front page of the Boston Evening Transcript for 11 July 1851. The left-hand columns contain advertising. For Windows users, right-click and select "View Image" to see an enlarged version.


As far as I'm concerned, newspapers can have the entire front page covered with ads if that's what their publishers want. It's a business decision, and editors and reporters must comply or seek work elsewhere. I tire of journalists' superiority complex. The Army trained me and a lot of other guys in the nuts and bolts of the trade in eight weeks; journalists are nothing special, believe me.



posted by Donald at April 12, 2009


Gee, ya mean ya don't really need a Master's in Journalism from Columbia to be a journalist?

Posted by: JP on April 12, 2009 12:52 PM

Typical pseduo-moralistic preening from reporters. Remember back when they were dissing bloggers as know-nothings who worked in their pajamas?

Posted by: Days of Broken Arrows on April 14, 2009 12:38 PM

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