John Arthur, executive editor of the Los Angeles Times, talked to TheWrap about his concern over two advertisements that have stirred conflict within the newspaper.
What was your reaction to the “Southland” ad?
It was unfortunate. The reaction from the staff and others demonstrated that it was a mistake.
You were on vacation for the drama last week?
I hadn’t seen the NBC ad before I left; I didn’t recognize how horrible it was until I saw an image of the front page later. The discussion I had was about an ad going across the right hand column and across the bottom. Before my trip I’d complained about it. I never dreamed it would be filled with news-looking content like it was. I was told it was not imminent, that an ad of this shape was weeks or months away — May or June was mentioned to me. It also was for another client, not NBC. So maybe NBC came in and bought the shape.
We thought we had an agreement that when front page ads were introduced, they would only be two shapes — one across the bottom, and one a two-column by six across.
This was a deviation from the agreement we had with advertising. But of course since then we’ve had a new publisher, a new ad director.
What did you think of the "Soloist" supplement?
I thought the type font that was used in the words "The Soloist" at the top was uncomfortably close to the font we use in section fronts.
Did you know it was coming?
The newspaper spokeswoman said that the paper has done this before, with "The Black Dahlia."
"The Black Dahlia" ad which was published in connection with that movie used a story out of our archives and printed it with other promotional copy. I don’t recall it being confusing the way this was confusing.
Would you accept having more such advertorial?
I’m not going to comment about what I’m going to do about it. It was awkward and confusing to the readers.
What do you say to those who say newsprint needs to lighten up?
I don’t have a lot of patience for online people telling us how to present our product. Our website is not as attractive as it could be, neither is the New York Times or the Washington Post. In the online world, newspapers let advertisers in before they had a chance to think about it. All these websites are unnecessarily trashy.
The New York Times?
The content isn’t trashy. But the advertising content clutters up and hurts the reading experience. On the Post website, they have pop-up ads covering everything.
What do you think will be the result of this reaction to these ads?
I look forward to having an agreement with Eddy (Hartenstein) that we’re all happy with on how to place ads in the paper, because we need advertising revenue in a big way.