LA Times’ investigation blames paper for Staples Center fiasco

LOS ANGELES: Trying to resolve a PR crisis of its own making, the Los Angeles Times published a scathing report of its internal investigation into November’s controversy over its secret deal with the city’s new Staples Center (PRWeek, Nov. 15).

LOS ANGELES: Trying to resolve a PR crisis of its own making, the Los Angeles Times published a scathing report of its internal investigation into November’s controversy over its secret deal with the city’s new Staples Center (PRWeek, Nov. 15).

LOS ANGELES: Trying to resolve a PR crisis of its own making, the

Los Angeles Times published a scathing report of its internal

investigation into November’s controversy over its secret deal with the

city’s new Staples Center (PRWeek, Nov. 15).



The controversy arose when the paper secretly agreed to share revenue

from the Oct. 10 edition of its weekly magazine with the Staples Center,

the sole subject of the issue. When details of the arrangement leaked

out, it left staffers and readers concerned that editorial coverage was

for sale.



The report was written by David Shaw, a Times media reporter who has

often been critical of the paper and other news organizations, and

edited by George Cotliar, the Times’ former managing editor. It was

published as a separate section on December 20.



What made the report so unprecedented was that no Times higher-up was

allowed to view it before publication. Only an executive news editor, a

copy chief and a copy editor were privy to Shaw’s findings ahead of

time.



Blaming the paper’s top brass, ’Crossing the Line’ charged that ’the

crumbling barrier between the editorial and advertising departments

(began) when Mark Willes took over as publisher in October 1997 ... He

thought he could (improve the paper’s profit margin, stock price and

circulation) by dismantling the wall between the editorial and business

departments.’



Additionally, publisher Kathryn Downings acknowledged that her

’fundamental misunderstanding’ of basic journalistic principles was

partially to blame.



Shaw did note that other major newspapers have made similar deals with

sports entities, but he pointed out that ’journalism is a very different

business,’ because it is expected to act in the public’s interest.



PR pros on the left coast said the report has undone some of the damage,

and commended the paper for responding forcefully to a major PR

crisis.



’Some of their luster is gone, but it’s still one of the country’s best

newspapers,’ said one. ’I think the real damage was internal, which will

probably take quite a bit longer to heal.’



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