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
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
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
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
’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.’