The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday called on the Los Angeles Times to stop selling advertising sections designed to resemble news sections, saying that the ads hurt the paper's credibility.
The supervisors sent a letter to Sam Zell, chairman of the Tribune Co., which owns The Times. The letter came the same day the paper published a four-page ad for Universal Studios that wrapped around LATExtra, the newspaper's breaking news section.
The advertisement promoted the new King Kong attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. The LATExtra flag on the front page of the ad was nearly identical to one that appears on the daily news section. The word "advertisement" appeared in red just below the flag.
The copy and photos were designed to look like news coverage of wreckage caused by a giant ape's rampage across Los Angeles. A headline read "Universal Studios Hollywood Partially Destroyed." Additional fake stories and photos described damage to Dodger Stadium, airports, beaches and the Hollywood sign.
Los Angeles Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein stood by the advertising supplement, saying such ads provide the revenues to help fund the paper's global reporting efforts.
"The Universal Studios Hollywood ad wrapping Thursday's LATExtra section met our advertising guidelines, including a large, red 'advertisement' notification on top of the page," he said. "Our readers understand the ad-supported economic model of our business, which allows us to provide the outstanding journalism they rely upon 24/7."