The L.A. Times "Alice in Wonderland" front page: Get over it

The Los Angeles Times has lost its soul, or so some would say. Apparently, even soulless publicists were upset about the front-page wrap that looked somewhat like real news.

But it’s not a betrayal, and it’s not a disgrace to the Times’ journalism (things like this and this are): It’s about paying the bills to live another day.

Here’s the thing: At $700,000 (roughly rumored), it paid for at least 10 reporters to keep their jobs for another year. Tell me another way to raise that cash, that quickly, that doesn’t involve running corporate-paid and -written stories and not informing the readers where such content comes from.

Secondly, who wouldn’t get that it was an ad, or some type of sponsored activity? I mean, look at it. It’s another entry in journalists (and apparently, some readers) underestimating readers’ intelligence. If newspaper readers are that stupid, then it’s not worth it to be in business for them. They surely aren’t, however, which means the naysayers are being patronizing at best.

The only publications that have gotten away without revenue — particularly from ads — have been publications patronized by wealthy owners looking to force their views into print or take on a rival. How is that any more noble? Instead, let’s dump noble, and go for alive and publishing. Then, at least there’s a chance that journalistic integrity will shine.

Thirdly, it’s a rare remaining advantage of print — the physical space and impact such an ad can have trumps most displays that are possible online. And even the best online presentations can be thwarted: Open another tab, click on the “skip ad” button, or risk driving the viewer away from your site. In print, the reader has to confront the ad — and generally expects that to be so.

Now, is it a long-term fix? No, for many reasons. One being noted is the shock factor — if this is a “movie of the week” presentation, it’ll get old. But it’s worth trying things, and this was a case where that editorial/business “wall” worked — the business side looked for revenue to enable the editorial side to do its job. One just hopes everyone is also looking for mobile, online and other digital revenue while cashing the check for “Alice in Wonderland.”

Photo credit: elvinstar