L.A. Times Replaces Front Page With Fake 'Law & Order' News; L.A. Times Readers Really Pissed

Earlier this week, the L.A. Times ran a fake front page — chock full of stories intended to sell NBC’s new L.A.-based Law & Order franchise — and guess what? Readers of the paper weren’t exactly pleased with the bit of crass badvertising.

Following the negative reader response to the ad, the Times’ Reader Representative column ran a sampling of the not-so-nice feedback.

“The Times stooped to a new low in its business practices,” wrote one ticked reader. “If the Times and other American newspapers are ever going to reverse the trend of declining readership, it is essential for newspapers to be taken seriously by their reading audience.”

Another irate reader said that the paper benefited financially not just from the ad money, but by have a salacious fake photo and headline on the front page: “Today’s paper has a full page ad with a fake headline and police tape over NBC.I work in Burbank, and every single person in our office and stopped and picked up the paper in concern. It is in extremely poor taste and offensive for those who have been victims of non-fake violent crimes.”

A VP of communications or something or other attempted to justify the ad thusly:

The Times collaborated with NBC to launch ‘Law & Order Los Angeles’ in a big, creative way for the hometown audience. This is an exciting, innovative ad that takes the show’s beloved, 20-year ‘ripped from the headlines’ concept and puts it front and center for Southern California.

Readers respond to ad’s fake front page L.A. Times

Thanks to Elanor for the tip!


Edit Your Comment

  1. outlulz says:

    Merely a way to get people that see the headline in the newspaper boxes or at the supermarket to buy a copy.

  2. chaesar says:

    wow, you think you’d treat your dwindling, print-based readership with a little more respect

  3. BrianneG says:

    This isn’t the first time. They did something similar when Southland first premiered and when the new King Kong ride went live this summer. It’s really not a big deal though a co-worker was confused for a few seconds at lunch when he encountered it.

    • outshined says:

      I was trying to think of when that happened, thanks. It really ticked off my significant other.

  4. prezuiwf says:

    Really stupid for them to do this and they deserve all the readership losses they will incur with this boneheaded promotion.

  5. blinky says:

    One of those “what could possibly go wrong?” moments? I bet the newsroom staff had opinions on it.

  6. 99 1/2 Days says:

    How tacky. Did no one there have a brain that could make logical conclusions? Apparently not. They may have had an excuse if they did this on April 1… Add another shovelful of dirt on the print media grave…

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Nintendo bought full ads for the DC local tabloids. I picked up the paper a few weeks ago and wondered why there was a photo of an old timey dude on the front, then saw the word “advertisement” at the top – then I moved on. The people who are annoyed with the LA Times should do the same, really. It says “advertisement” at the top in red letters – it’s not like they were trying to hide the fact that the front page wasn’t real. The newspaper knows you only look at the headlines, but it’s not the newspaper’s fault that you only look at the headlines.

    • Tim says:

      Keep in mind that this was only with the free papers.

      I’m used to it with Express, and I don’t read the Examiner. Plus, the ad was made to look like an olde-timey newspaper. So it looked different not only in its olde-timiness, but also because Express and the Examiner don’t usually have newspaper covers, they have magazine covers (big image, words across it, etc.).

    • vastrightwing says:

      So I assume it’s fine for any business to make assumptions about consumers and purposely try to trick them: sell merchandise in big containers that contain less product even though they print the actual amount in small print. Yell “UNLIMITED” and sell a very limited product, since they bury in fine print that it’s not really unlimited, print and distribute coupons to lure you into their store, only to find out that coupon has so many limitations, you can’t use it, etc. etc.

      I don’t care what The L.A. Times does, since I don’t read it or subscribe, but they are deceiving their readers and giving them less value. I use the front headlines of a paper, often to decide if it’s interesting enough for me to buy. This is an obnoxious at best: it wastes people’s time. It simply gives the paper even less credibility than it already has. People will cancel subs over this. Again, It doesn’t bother me, but this sort of nonsense is systemic all over and it amazes me that a committee of thinking people would think this was good for their business. I guess the money was just too much for them.

      Ha ha!

      I just don’t want to hear the L.A. Times complain they’re loosing money due to the Internet. They’re loosing money due to BAD business decisions. Period.

  8. Erika says:

    I was confused when I read that the other day because I didn’t see any of the supposed news on latimes.com website. About 2 paragraphs in, I realized that it wasn’t real and just advertising. Definitely annoyed by it, but you gotta do what you gotta do to make money I suppose. Although, I wish they printed the words advertisement in bigger letters at the top.

  9. ElizabethD says:

    Somewhere, Orson Welles is smiling.

  10. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    When the newspaper stops reporting real news (save for April 1st editions) then the media is dead.

  11. mythago says:

    I can’t be the first person to think this is a vast improvement over what the LA Times usually prints.

  12. dreamfish says:


  13. redskull says:

    When I worked for the local newspaper, I was told that the front page was “sacred ground,” and we couldn’t even put ads on it. I guess when you get desperate enough, those kinds of rules are the first thing to go out the window.

    By the way, when I worked there they eventually found a way to run ads on the front page– they would print an ad on a PostIt Note and stick it to the front page of every paper. In their twisted logic that didn’t count as an ad since it wasn’t permanently affixed to the front page.

    • Tim says:

      The “sacred ground” thing is on its way out, but the spirit still remains. A lot of papers only put ads below the fold, or only in extreme corners (I hate the post-it thing, but it bring in the dollahs). And they almost never have ads like the other pages … half-page, quarter page, full page ads, etc.

    • nybiker says:

      yeah, but those stickers (I don’t want to genericize ?? the real Post-Its) are usually covering a photo and when you remove the sticke to see the picture, it removes the ink. I’d rather they keep the bottom border ads. That way whatever is on the page gets reformatted to fit.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The LA Times fake cover was a wraparound fake cover, not the actual cover itself. The newspaper designed the front cover as it usually does, with the news. The fake L&O story was printed on a separate sheet that wrapped around the newspaper.

  14. nybiker says:

    Part of the problem is that people who BOUGHT paper to read the story felt duped. The free papers here in NYC, AMNY and Metro, have cover pages that are ads, real ads, not fake story ads. But as the paper is free, no problem.
    If you’re going to be buying the paper anyway, then, yeah, somewhat confusing for a moment or two, but if you only bought it to read the story (and let’s face it, with a front page like that, there would probably be more than a page or two inside concerning the ‘story’), well, like I said, a feeling of being taken advantage of. I would not have been happy about it and who knows maybe I would not buy the paper in the future.

    • vastrightwing says:

      Bad business decisions, just like this, are killing news papers. The internet is just a symptom. The real cause is bad leadership. I stopped reading news papers long before it was fashionable simply because I never felt they were giving me trustworthy news. Long live Mike Barnacle, Jayson Blair, Lloyd Brown, Nada Behziz, etc.

      • nybiker says:

        No argument from me about the business decisions. I had to look up Behziz (actually, I didn’t recognize any of the others, but their names appeared to be more common) to see the connection they all shared. Jason’s name was sorta familiar but more in the sense I thought I had heard of him but just couldn’t place him.

  15. oldtaku says:

    Damn, LA Times has been crap for years and years, but at least pretend to have a little dignity.

  16. Murph1908 says:

    As circulation continues to decline, newspapers and magazines continue to alienate those who are still purchasing and subscribing by increased advertising gimicks and more intrusive ads.

    Try to find a table of contents in a magazine…start on page 20, and you’ll be close.

    False covers on subscription magazines that must be torn off or folded back to see the actual cover.

    Extra thick pages inside the magazine to force it to stop on that page when trying to thumb-fan to a desired page.

    They keep making the product more and more annoying, and wonder why we are purchasing them less and less often.

  17. jsl4980 says:

    People who were tricked into buying a copy should be entitled to a refund.

    • vastrightwing says:

      But how can they give you back your time? What a waste! Enjoy the ad dollars execs. You’re going to need it when the paper goes out of business.

    • SabreDC says:

      Tricked? It says “ADVERTISEMENT” right above the headline.

      • vastrightwing says:

        Sure, in a type face a lot smaller (lighter stroke) than the headline. They know your eye isn’t going to immediately notice it.

        • SabreDC says:

          Unless you’re colorblind, the eye should catch the red before the generic black/white that is all over the page.

  18. James says:

    Is that better or worse than this real New Olreans headline from back in ’06


  19. mick0 says:

    You’re so right! Just another nail in print media’s coffin! I hope online ads never resort to looking like headlines. Then I’ll really be mad! Almost as mad as I was when I saw that expose on acai berries!

  20. Xerloq says:

    Jeez, sounds like some people need to switch to USA Today…

  21. A.Mercer says:

    I remember a small home town newspaper running an April Fool’s Day paper. The front page was loaded with all kinds of silly news stories like how the local lake had monster in it like Loch Ness and that the prisoners in the jail needed money to replace their tennis court and jacuzzi. It was all hilarious stuff but the next week the letters to the editor were foul. No one believed the stories but they believed that it gave the town a bad image to have a paper come out like that.

  22. robphelan says:

    poor taste

  23. bwcbwc says:

    Ads above the fold on the front page? Desperate times, indeed.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Holy shit, you’ve just blown my mind.

      I’ve been a web designer for 5 years and never fully understood why it was called “above the fold.”

      Mind. Blown.

  24. Plasmafox says:

    And they think people will PAY FOR THIS ONLINE when they can come to free sites like Consumerist and get better, more interesting and more relevant news.

  25. TehLlama says:

    Welcome to the death throes of the LAT now that they can’t rely on actual journalism to keep the doors open.

    How does The Onion release a free paper that’s so much better?

  26. MeowMaximus says:

    And people wonder why print newspapers are dying. Go ahead and die off you stupid dinosaurs, you will not be missed.

    • SkepticalSue says:

      They would missed by me, as I value the investigative reporting that only newspapers do. Try getting that from the airheads at your local TV station. The politicians would be filled with glee if they didn’t have real print reporters to give them headaches anymore, just TV talent and bloggers.

  27. Levk says:

    This si proof that newspaper do not care about there readers and plan to go away sooner then they thought. Bad enough that there news is yesterdays news at most but now they taking over the Sun’s job with the fake news.

  28. Peacock (Now In Extra Crispy) says:

    Back story…

    The head of media for NBC is married to the person who’s responsible for entertainment ad sales for the LA Times. Rather cozy, don’t you think?

    Too bad, too, because I actually enjoyed LOLA. But this taints it.

  29. arcticJKL says:

    What’s a newspaper?

  30. FrankReality says:

    One reader told me he wasn’t fooled by the fake news story – he said it was an obvious fake because the LA Times never prints “hard” news on the front page.


  31. angryrider says:

    I can think of one possible good usage for this form of advertising…


  32. DjDynasty-Webology says:

    I deliver the Chicago tribune, in a small town, nearly 30% of our subscribers thought they received the wrong paper and called to complain!

  33. oldwiz65 says:

    It was fake? Oh my… Considering the quality of so much in the newspapers I can never figure out what is fake and what is true anyway. Even a lot of the supposedly true stuff is kind of hard to believe.

  34. BoredOOMM says:

    In other news, three Los Angeles residents were happy to learn their favorite TV show was spotlighted in their favorite Newspaper.

  35. spamtasticus says:

    What is a newspaper?

  36. Sparty999 says:

    hey, at least we’re talking about a newspaper here… people need to lighten up. Don’t criticize the industry for not being cutting edge enough, then bash them for trying something new to sell papers.

  37. UnicornMaster says:

    I think its genius and not offensive.

  38. EyeintheLAsky says:

    Just a couple of years ago, the Times fired one of their own photographers for manipulating a photo (just slightly, for “clarity” )…yet the “oxygen-challenged morons” (suits that wear ties) decide THIS is a good idea.

    Bad Paper…no subscription revenue for YOU!

  39. invisibelle says:

    I don’t mind “badvertising” as a tag, but using it in the body of the post like that sounds kinda dumb.