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The perils of "Indiana Jones" on the front page

Indiana_jonesIndiana Jones landed on the front page on Monday in the form of a review written from Cannes, and a dozen readers took the time to take note. Bruce Hartzell said in an e-mail that he was "shocked and disappointed to see the L.A. Times run a review of the new Indiana Jones movie on the front page. What's next, a recap of 'American Idol'? The front page and front section of the paper should be focused on real news. The Calendar section is the appropriate section of the paper for film reviews."

"Whether there were more newsworthy subjects or not," wrote Will Campbell of Silver Lake, "I cringed at seeing Turan's glowing review of the latest Steven Spielberg film -- or mainly of Spielberg -- on the front page of today's L.A. Times.  I know it's below the fold, but it comes off as a big blatant sloppy wet one that has no business being anywhere on or near A1."

Slow news day or not, the idea of putting the review for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" on Page A1 had been discussed for a few days among a number of editors.

Entertainment editor Betsy Sharkey explains why the story was pitched for that spot: "It was one of the most anticipated films of the year, if not this decade, with interest crossing generational lines in an almost unprecedented way (parents who saw it as kids, and now their kids, all keenly interested in the film) and A1 is home to the most compelling news of the day -- in this case it was the first critical reaction to 'Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.'"

Reviews on A1 are not common, but not unprecedented either. "The Passion of the Christ" was there in 2004, and "The Da Vinci Code" in 2006.

Taken into consideration in this case, says weekend editor Craig Turner, was the series' extreme popularity (as the review itself reported, it's earned $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales). Also, says Turner, the movie reviewer, Kenny Turan, "is one of our signature voices, one of the reasons people buy the L.A. Times." (Turner quibbles with Campbells' take on the review: "I disagree with the sentiment this was a 'big wet one.' It was a measured review that describes the film as a success, but it was far from a rave.")

Ultimately, says Turner, "We can't overlook that entertainment is arguably the leading industry in Southern California and America's No. 1 export. We cover entertainment closely and we will put entertainment stories on the front page that won't be on the front pages of other newspapers. That does not mean we're not a serious news organization; entertainment is serious news here."

Which means, as Sharkey points out, this won't be the last time such stories end up on A1: "We're increasingly pushing to have high-profile and significant entertainment coverage on our front page, as we are Hollywood's hometown paper."

(Placement of "American Idol" stories has been a subject of reader concern even before Hartzell's plaint about that show. Sharkey says that coverage of this week's finale will be pitched on Wednesday for Thursday's front page. That reader might have reason to write again.)

Photo: Lucasfilm

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Comments (26)

Indiana Jones is news, and is something that people actually care about! It is far more important than most self-serving Hollywood gosip.

slow news day? it's a busy world out there. lots going on. you might want to check it out sometime, then keep others informed about it by writing about it.

to your point about this being an industry story - a story concerning the industry so important to the area might warrant the front page, but this wasn't a story; it was a film review.

what's more shocking than the original decision is the justification i read above. "Hollywood's hometown paper?" really? that's what you are shooting for?

i concur, Turan's review feels like a 'big wet one'. i saw the movie. it really suffers from being not good at all. Turan's review seems to be a calculated, positive spin on what is clearly a lame film. Perhaps Spielberg's worst since "Always"

A perfect way to start alerting the world to 12-21-2012. Thanks Hollywood!!!

This is what happens when you make news a business - the newspapers are going to put what will sell papers, not what is important for people to know.

For all the reasons Craig Turner outlines, the review belongs on A1. Indiana Jones is a (pop) cultural icon and the L.A. Times is a publication based in the heart of the entertainment industry. A review of the return of a long-awaited screen legend is news.

Last time I looked, your paper was not called LA Variety. Please, keep entertainment in the Calendar section.

Non-news goes in a non-newspaper. This was non-news.

The new Indy film has been so long anticipated, and the series is so iconic in relation to the Hollywood-blockbuster genre, that the editors are well within bounds to assign this review to A1. This is, after all, the LA Times, not the Times of London. As noted above, in Hollywood, the release of Indy IV, at long last, IS news. Speaking of which, when Soames Forsyte (of John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga) finally passed away, the Times of London did in fact publish an obituary on their front page! I think the editors of both papers knew exactly what they were doing.

I'm actually shocked to see that many people can't consider something like this front page news, regardless of whether it is Indiana Jones or some other film of merit. Film-making is an art. One of the problems with the people of America is that they view art as a "hobby," a past-time, and ultimately not important because it isn't death, war, medical break-throughs, or politics. The truth is, America is lacking in a defined culture. When you look at many country's cultures over the centuries, they are defined in many ways by the art of the day! Yet, here we have many people wanting to stifle that? It's awful. Art that makes an impression should always be on the front page, because when our generation is over, art will be what defines us. Call it unfortunate, but it's true and more people need to be dialed in on the importance of art in the media, but even moreso as a cultural building block.

Craig Turner's quibble with my characterization missed my point. Nice of him to defend Turan's review, but I wasn't referencing the column as a "big wet one," I was calling out its front page position.

And please thank Turner for the adamant warning that apparently I can expect more of the same to come.

Front page? Again, as others have stated, NOT appropriate for a review of a single "adventure" film. This isn't some controversial or insightful movie (religious or otherwise) -- it's just a money grab. Having an article covering the "state of the industry" would be A1 news. Discussing the economy's impact on "hometown Hollywood" would be A1 news.

Talking about how some fictional character, long past his physical and cultural prime, beats up NAZI's with his walker .... definitely NOT news.

I can't even believe people critique what goes on the front of a newspaper.

Okay, so it's wrong to make note of one of the most anticipated films ever made?! Everyone knows about it and alot of people are excited about it so what is wrong with putting a review on the front page, especially in L.A.. And I mean as if some more propaganda on the war or other issues is all that important or NEW. So what's the harm in putting something fun and maybe takes your mind off the stresses in life. I don't believe that I don't believe is trivial at all, as art is one of the most important things in life. And about it being "just" an adventure film is huge understatement, not only have the Indiana Jones been some of the most pinnacle films in terms of film-making in history but they hold a deep and powerful not-only nostalgic value for alot of people. So shame on you for thinking poor Indy deserves less than front page coverage. And I really don't think by putting this on the front page is making the world one step closer to the end of the world TIM, I mean do you really think the media isn't already partly corrupt.

The front page of a newspaper is meant to grab you as well as let you know what to expect from that day's edition. It is NOT the place for real news, it is the place for the best stories of the day. Sometimes it's sports, sometimes politics and yes, sometimes movies.

In this case, it would be irresponsible of the LA times not to have the review on the front page.

Heck, it may even get a young person to pick up a paper and read it for once.

"We can't overlook that entertainment is arguably the leading industry in Southern California and America's No. 1 export" -

Back when I lived in LA I heard that sort of thing repeated all the time, but I have not heard it repeated much since I left. Where does that statistic come from? I have also heard that said of airliners, weapons, software & video games, not sure where that comes from either.

I'm delighted to see the high level of professionalism LA Times' readers expect from the paper. Entertainment news have no business on the front page of any serious newspaper.

Back in Feb, there was a celebrity nude photos case in Hong Kong (think Pamela/Paris Hilton), and some local newspapers ran the story front page for over 2 weeks! There was some criticism from some serious journalists, but as long as people feed on it, they keep publishing.

It goes to show that quality readers read quality paper, and I hope that LA Times maintain the level of professionalism expected as a quality newspaper!

Had they written a piece about cross-generational movie audiences and made the story one of human interest rather than a film review, then I can understand it. Otherwise, that was a pretty bad editorial decision and comes across as pandering to the studios.

Ugh. So this is news in Sam Zell's world? Sad.

This is one reason I love New York. The Times sniffed at the movie in the back pages, on the jump page in a wrapup about Cannes, and the tone was "isn't it dreadful how every festival now has some lumpenprole commercial juggernaut distracting from all the creativity" and also "we're not going into detail but everybody hated it including me" ... and the same day, the Daily News and Post both have huge A1 displays proclaiming it a terrific success. Just goes to show there's no one audience and certainly no right reaction to a movie.

You people haven't been following what new Tribune consultant Lee Abrams is preaching....It's time to "rip up" the old front page......I believe this is just the start of 'Column One"
moving into columns 2,3,4...........

Another disappointment from the LA Times, which continues its downward spiral in stories printed. This review has no place on page 1. Calling it the most anticipated film of the year, if not decade, is entirely subjective.

As a lifelong Angeleno, it pains me a bit to say that the NY Times will continue to be my first source for news.

Get it right, LAT editors.

The movie mention should have been handled like big sports stories: a picture with a page reference. Putting Turan's review on A1 looks and smells like cheap pandering. Turner's rationalization, "We can't overlook that entertainment is arguably the leading industry in Southern California and America's No. 1 export" is breathtakingly tone-deaf to the distinction between commercial self-interest and reporting (c.f. Staples Center/LAT magazine fiasco).

Seems to me that the movie should not be front page news until it has actually opened. Even then, the story should be the reaction of the public to the movie, not a critic's review.

The review was so anomalous that it led me to wonder what Paramount paid for what appears to be a front page advertisement.

Perhaps at one time this would have been news -- industry news for Hollywood/Los Angeles County. No doubt the film industry is still huge here (though Bollywood actually has the largest film production in the world now), and it certain events -- such as the actor's strike -- effect the local economy and culture. Yet the latest release of a potentially blockbuster film? Blockbusters come out much more often than they used to; it's hardly news anymore. I'm not so certain it's newsworthy these days.

With all the depressing news going on, (come on you know how much a dozen eggs and a gallon of milk costs by now), it was refreshing to have something light to sit down to with a cup of morning coffee and read!

This is the backup site for The Los Angeles Times. We'll post news and information if becomes inoperable or inaccessible.

this is a test breaking news post |  April 16, 2013, 1:45 pm »


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