The Los Angeles Times came under criticism Thursday after it ran a front-page advertisement that resembled a news story, the newspaper reported. The ad for the NBC drama “Southland” appeared in the left column, starting below the fold and above and beside a banner ad for the television show. The ad, which was labeled “advertisement” and carried the NBC peacock logo, was written from the perspective of a reporter on a ride-along with the show’s main character, a Los Angeles police officer.
The Times appears to be the first major U.S. newspaper in modern times to have run a front-page ad in a format that could be mistaken for a news story, said Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. Publisher Eddy Hartenstein said he decided to run the NBC ad despite newsroom objections because he was trying to ensure that The Times could continue to operate. “Because of the times that we’re in, we have to look at all sorts of different — and some would say innovative — new solutions for our advertising clients,” he said.