Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Los Angeles Times Outsources Reporting to NBC, and Hopes You Notice

Remember when the New York Times (NYT) started selling off part of its front page to CBS (CBS) earlier this year, generating a brief bit of buzz? The Los Angeles Times does, and now it’s trying to one-up that stunt: Instead of just running an ad on the paper’s front page, it’s running an ad that’s masquerading as one of the paper’s news stories.

The stunt is designed to promote “Southland,” a new cop drama that debuts on GE’s (GE) NBC tonight. The fake “story,” which runs on the bottom-left column of the page, follows one of the show’s characters on a “ride-along” through LA.

The (not very good) lede: “It’s not every assignment that puts you in the back of a squad car, especially one that gives you a true glimpse into the hearts of the heroes behind the badge…”

Here’s what it looks like in print:


Like the New York Times ads, this might have seemed controversial several years ago, when newspapers weren’t shaking the couch cushions to try and find spare change. Now it’s just inevitable, especially given that Tribune Co., the LAT’s corporate parent, has already filed for Chapter 11.

Tellingly, the ad doesn’t show up on the homepage of the LAT’s Web site (though there is a review that calls the pilot “strangely bland”). If  you want people like me to write about an Internet ad, it’s got to be truly interesting, like the Apple (AAPL) campaign that ran earlier this year.

UPDATE: The embattled editorial staff of the Los Angeles Times, which has endured round after round of cuts, isn’t as blase about this as I am. They’re circulating a petition that describes the fake story as “embarrassing and demoralizing“.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work