Readers' Representative Journal

A conversation on newsroom ethics and standards

Category: Talk to The Times

'9 Chickweed Lane': Some readers not laughing

Cw120903

"I'm concerned about one of the comics in today's paper, '9 Chickweed Lane,' and the depiction of a male lying between a woman's legs. They were both dressed, but I think it's inappropriate for a comic strip that children could be reading."

Cw120904

"The '9 Chickweed Lane' strip today is porn!! What's up with your standards that you allow visual sexual situations on the Comics page? My granddaughter reads this section, and it is unsuitable today."

Cw120905

"I don't consider myself a prude, but I think this cartoon is very inappropriate for a family newspaper. I'm quite surprised. I've never felt compelled to call about a cartoon in The Times."

... So went a handful of calls and emails this week regarding the story line in "9 Chickweed Lane.

The story continued from last week, when the bespectacled Amos clambered onto the stage at the finale of dancer Edda's performance. He sprawled across her in Saturday's strip, and asked, "Is this a bad time?" The story picked up Monday, with the two, as one reader complained, "in the missionary position."

Assistant Managing Editor Alice Short, who oversees the features sections including the Comics page, said she didn't think the strip meant to be racy.

"I'm not sure how this current story line will end, but it started a couple of weeks ago," Short said. "It's pretty clear that the musician wants to propose to the ballerina. I see it as a story about love, and I don't believe anything untoward was intended."

John Glynn, vice president and editorial director of Universal Uclick, which distributes "9 Chickweed Lane," said the syndicate had received no other complaints.

The Times does not normally remove or replace comic strips based on story line -- though editors did do that in March with a "Doonesbury" series that took on Texas' abortion law. For that week, "Doonesbury" was moved to the Op-Ed page and "Doonesbury" reruns were published on the Comics page.The decision drew more than 100 calls and emails

Comics may be part of the "funny pages," but they're serious business to readers.  

-- Deirdre Edgar

Images, from top: "9 Chickweed Lane" from Sept. 3, Sept. 4 and Sept. 5. Credit: Universal Uclick

‘Doonesbury’ on the Op-Ed page: Readers react

OpEdDoones

The decision by The Times to move this week's "Doonesbury" comic strip, which is taking on Texas' abortion law, to the Op-Ed page has prompted dozens of emails from readers, not to mention a Twitter campaign to restore the strip to the comics page.

Most readers said they appreciated that the strips weren't canceled, and many supported the move to the Op-Ed page, for a variety of reasons. Others saw no reason for the move. And a few made tongue-in-cheek suggestions of topics that could move to the comics page.

Here is a sampling of the response:  

Congratulations to the L.A. Times for being so forward-thinking as to put this week's strips on the Op-Ed page. By running them in this section you are so brave considering the subject matter. You have performed a public service to ALL women, not to just those poor souls who must live in Texas. My hat is off to you guys.  You make me proud!
--Selby Segall, Los Angeles

Thank you for not burying "Doonesbury," or worse censoring it this week. And a wise move to put it on the Op-Ed pages. Maybe a few folks that could benefit by the obvious might finally understand. But probably not.
--David Reid, Hollywood

Thank you, thank you for your article and for deciding to publish the "Doonesbury" strips regarding the Texas law affecting women. The Op-Ed section is an excellent place for this important subject. My husband and I support your decision.
--Anne-Marie Kaukonen, San Diego

I applaud the Times for publishing the "Doonesbury" comic strip. I did not see justified reasoning for moving it to the Op-Ed section, but thanks for bringing more attention to it. While you are moving information around based on the nature of their content, may I suggest you put the Republican platform in the comics? 
--Karen Suarez, Monrovia

OK, so you move "Doonsebury" to Op-Ed from the comics -- so be it. Now move Goldberg from Op-Ed to the comics -- fair's fair.
--Norm Toback, Studio City

I was so pleased to see this cartoon strip in the Op-Ed pages, but my reason has nothing to do with its content. Unlike its regular home in the funnies, where the type is so microscopic that I can rarely make out the dialogue, at least in the Opinion pages, the text is readable. Oh, happy day!
--Todd Koerner, Hermosa Beach

I disagree with your decision to move this week's "Doonesbury" strips to the Op-Ed page. They should be on the front page of the paper!
--Mike Feinman, Costa Mesa

Odd that when "Doonesbury" took the late Saint Ronnie, Dubya and even Obama to task you did not put him on the Opinion pages, but you do it now as GOP governors want to take us back to the '50s with intrusions into women’s reproductive lives.
--Virgil Jose, Apple Valley

I'm writing to express my disgust with the L.A. Times' decision to run this week's "Doonesbury" on the Op-Ed page instead of in its regular spot on the comics page. My pre-teen and teen daughters read the comics daily, and I would rather have them be exposed to the intelligent, relevant satire of Garry Trudeau pertaining to real-life issues than say, the writhing pseudo-feminist characters of "9 Chickweed Lane."
--Mari Reynolds, Huntington Beach

Moving this week's "Doonesbury" off the comics page? Are the convictions of the fourth estate so weak so as to avoid even a hint of controversy? There was a time when provoking discussion was welcomed, and frankly, the "Doonesbury" strips are an excellent way to do that -- they're lightly provoking, but not so shocking that it's impossible to have a reasonable debate about them.
--Scott Frank, Los Angeles

In addition to running on the Op-Ed page, this week's strips are being posted daily on the Opinion L.A. blog: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday

--Deirdre Edgar

 

Two new ways to contact The Times

As of this week, there are two new ways to contact The Times. News tips can now be made anonymously via an online form. And subscribers have a new "My Account" page.

News tips

A new online form allows readers to submit news tips. Tips also can be emailed to newstips@latimes.com 

Subscriber feedback

A new “My Account” page for subscribers launched Thursday. Subscribers will need to re-register, but once they do, they will be able to send feedback on a number of topics to The Times: Customer Support, News Rack/Retail, Editorial/Content, Advertising, Billing, Mobile Apps, LA Deals, eEdition, latimes.com or Times Select. (Editorial/Content reaches the readers’ representative.) 

Other contact links:

Newsroom staff directory

Report an error in an article

Send a letter to the editor

 

In Penn State case, are allegations 'sex,' 'rape' or 'assault'?

Sandusky-arrest

The charges against a former Penn State assistant football coach accused of sexually abusing boys have dominated news stories and shocked readers across the country.

The grand jury report that led to Jerry Sandusky’s indictment was made public a few days after Sandusky’s arrest. The testimony contained in the report is explicit, leaving no doubt as to the allegations against Sandusky. However, it poses some difficulty for a family newspaper to report.

Reader Amy Ramos of Santa Barbara thought The Times had been imprecise in descriptions of the case and wondered why.

“I have been puzzled by the use of what seems to be unnecessary euphemism in coverage of the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal,” Ramos wrote. “There is a reference to the suspect, former coach Jerry Sandusky, ‘having sex with a boy in the shower.’

“It seems to me that a grown man engaging in sex with a 10-year-old boy -- by its very definition non-consensual -- should be called ‘rape,’ not ‘having sex’ or even ‘being forced to have sex.’

“I see the word ‘rape’ used in other contexts in The Times, so I'm curious as to why it would not be used in coverage of this story, in which it seems entirely appropriate.”

Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann responds:

We agree with Amy Ramos that in some of our early stories we resorted to unnecessary euphemism. Whether this was out of squeamishness about the subject matter, an attempt to describe lurid allegations for a family newspaper, or more likely the result of our working quickly in following complex, rapidly evolving events, we should have been more precise. We should have said “sexually assaulting.”

In the Jerry Sandusky case, he is charged with “multiple counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of a child, indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor, as well as single counts of aggravated indecent assault and attempted indecent assault,” according to the Associated Press.

The charges do not include “rape”; however, the word does appear in the 23-page grand jury report.

This is not a new challenge for editors. We issued memos to the staff in 2003 and 2008 and again this month to remind editors that “sex case” is not an acceptable headline shorthand for describing instances of alleged sexual assault, molestation or rape. Victims of such assaults do not “have sex” with their attackers; that usage implies consent.

As is often the case, a major news event reminds us about our own guidelines and the need to watch for subtleties in language.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Jerry Sandusky is put in a police car in Bellefonte, Pa., on Nov. 5. Credit: Associated Press.

Readers looking for news, not Kardashians

Many readers were surprised to open their Thursday paper and find a large photo of the reality-TV Kardashian sisters in place of the front page. The page, which was labeled “Advertisement,” was part of a four-page wraparound promotion for Sears. 

A sampling of the reader calls and emails to The Times:

"I was disappointed to see the Kardashians on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. At first I wasn't sure what story about them would be so important as to be front page NEWS. Of course it was just an ad. The front page of newspapers should continue to be about news. I'm very offended by this type of display, and I hope The Times’ journalistic integrity will win over this kind of insult."
-- Manny Rodriguez, West Hollywood

"Your having a Kardashian ad on the front page was cheap and tacky. This is the front page! Please keep such ads buried somewhere in the paper, not the front page."
-- Tom Runyan, Santa Monica

"Kardashians on the bloody front page! I know it's labeled an advertisement. But, come on.  How does putting these three on a mock front page jibe with your purported mission to be a respected news organization. How serious can we take your editorial work, your coverage and your opinions, in light of such a shallow display?" 
-- Earl Plummer, Torrance

"Today's fake front page with the Kardashians on it was horrifying. I opened my front door and was greeted by them in all their leopard splendor. I know it is just an ad, but honestly! You are losing credibility by pulling such cheap stunts."
-- Cinzia Zanetti, Los Angeles

"No way should an advertisement overshadow or cover the front section of a newspaper. The way it was done, with 'Los Angeles Times' at the top and 'Advertisement' in small print, makes it seem that the ad is the first page of your newspaper. It makes it seem that these Kardashian people, and all of their endorsed paraphernalia, are more important than the news!"
-- Laura Marro, Burbank

Continue reading »

Readers respond to Geraldine Baum's 9/11 journal

Baum-ny

Many readers were moved by the story of New York bureau reporter Geraldine Baum's 9/11 journal  and her reminiscences about that day.

Baum learned about the attacks after dropping off her children at school. As she tells it, she didn't have a notebook with her, or proper shoes. Her notes scribbled into the brown leather journal -- quickly handed to her by her husband before she rushed toward the World Trade Center -- relate her observations, fear and even flashes of anger. 

This summer, she used those notes to try to retrace her steps, and she found a couple of the people she'd encountered on Sept. 11, 2001.

Several readers wrote to say they'd been brought to tears by the article. Others wanted to share their own stories and memories of that day.

A sampling:

"I found your 9/11 piece unbelievably moving. You talk about other people's courage, but being a good reporter, you ignore your own. Thanks for having the guts to keep moving on that terrible day, and for being able to re-create it with such force, grace, and admirable lack of sentimentality."
--Louise Farr

Continue reading »

Where were you on 9/11? Readers invited to share stories

Twin-lights With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks approaching, The Times is asking readers to share their stories about that day.

I still recall Diane Pucin's column several days after the attacks. She wrote that she'd had a seat on the American Airlines flight that hit one of the World Trade Center Towers, but she changed her flight to later in the day. It still gives me chills.

I was scheduled to fly that day, too, on a United Airlines flight from Manchester, N.H., back to Los Angeles. It was Sept. 17 before I was able to get home, on a Boston-to-L.A. flight. The ticket counters at Logan Airport, from which two of the doomed flights had departed, carried sympathy bouquets.

Where were you? What were you doing?

Share your story, and The Times will publish some of them on latimes.com.

-- Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Twin beams of light represent the World Trade Center's towers on the fifth anniversary of the attacks. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Coming soon to The Times' weather page: Idyllwild

Idyllwild

Results of an informal reader poll are in, and Idyllwild is the city that will be added to the California cities list on The Times' weather page.

The San Jacinto mountains town received about 38% of the vote, besting second-place Santa Cruz, with 29%. Corona, Lake Elsinore and Julian were the other cities in contention.

Reader Carol Fahy emailed after casting her vote, saying the addition of Idyllwild would be helpful for locals and visitors alike. "C'mon up sometime for a visit," she added. "You will really like it if you like the outdoors and  peace and quiet in nature."

AccuWeather says the change will take effect as soon as Wednesday's paper.

--Deirdre Edgar

Photo: Tent camping near Idyllwild. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

 

What California city should be added to the weather page? [Updated]

Santacruz Julian

The Times is making a change to the California cities list on its weather page, and editors need your help. The National Weather Service station at Westlake Village is no longer operating, so that city will be removed from the listing, and one of the following five cities will be added.

You can vote below (and, sorry, no write-ins allowed). Voting will close at 11 p.m. Monday.

[Updated, July 19: The results are in!]

The options, with potential pros and cons:

Corona

Pro: Emergent SoCal population center near Riverside that gets a lot of traffic.

Con: Weather station seems to be up in the nearby mountains, not in Corona itself; nearby Chino and Riverside are already on the page and seem to have very similar weather.

Idyllwild

Pro: Well-known weekend getaway location; higher elevation and thus different weather info than nearby Hemet and Palm Springs, which are already on our page.

Con: Popular enough to warrant inclusion?

Julian

Pro: Used to be on the list; another well-known weekend getaway location.

Con: A bit far afield for most of our current readership; nearby Ramona is on the forecast map already.

Lake Elsinore

Pro: Popular water recreation area that's also on way to other popular tourist sites.

Con: Popular enough to warrant inclusion? And Elsinore weather info seems pretty similar to nearby Temecula, which is on the page.

Santa Cruz

Pro: Popular vacation spot.

Con: Not a SoCal location; nearby Monterey is already on the page.

 

--Deirdre Edgar

Left photo: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times. Right photo: Wild turkeys in Julian. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

 

Readers respond to ad's fake front page

A1-2 A1-1

An advertisement that appeared to be the front page of The Times took readers by surprise Wednesday morning. Many of them called or sent e-mails to protest the fake news reports of vandalism and murder at NBC in Burbank. As of noon, The Times had received 61 e-mails, all but one of them critical, and 51 phone calls.

The ad, which readers discovered after unfolding the page, was for the TV show “Law & Order Los Angeles.” The actual front page, with a lead story about the debate between gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, was just behind the ad.

Nancy Sullivan, The Times' vice president for communications, said: "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."

Here is a sampling of the reader response:

“The Times stooped to a new low in its business practices today (Sept. 29) when it published a wrap-around advertising section for the NBC TV network, disguised as the newspaper's front page. Yes, the fake news section was marked ‘advertisement,’ and yes, your company needs advertising revenue in order to survive. But 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.”

--James W. Ragsdale, Newport Beach

---

“We were punked. The ad’s intent was, of course, to get people to look at it, an intent which was achieved. But it also very much offended me, one of your last faithful subscribers.”

--Sandy Sudweeks, Costa Mesa

---

“To wrap the paper in an advertisement for a TV show is making a mockery of the actual news this paper is supposed to report. I have enjoyed many thoughtful journalistic articles by Times writers through the years. But I can only imagine the frustration of the fine reporters on the staff, to be reduced to a billboard for a fictional TV show.”

-- Miriam Ellis, La Canada

---

“Since when does the L.A. Times run fake news stories under its valued masthead?  Or should I say ‘once-valued’ masthead?”

-- Rhys Thomas, Valley Glen

---

“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.”

-- Cynthia Appel, Los Angeles

---

“Let me be one of the first to express my total support for ad revenue any way you can get it, including selling a cover of your front page, presumably for an unusually large sum of money. I hope all Times readers realize the financial pressures on all print media today and, like me, hope the day never comes when we have to get our Times on a digital reader.”

-- Jim Carroll, Burbank

Photos: The advertising section (left) and Wednesday's front page. Credits: Los Angeles Times

From Twitter: Where were you 16 years ago during the O.J. Simpson pursuit?

Thursday afternoon, The Times asked its followers on Twitter, "16 yr anniversary: Where were you when O.J. Simpson was being 'chased' in his Bronco through LA in 1994?" A post on the Comments Blog asking the same question had drawn 68 responses as of Thursday morning.

Twitter followers were quick to weigh in:

missxtatti: It interrupted the Knicks vs Rockets basketball game :(

ilovechomsky: absolutely no idea!

john_decker: I was in Vancouver visiting. Turned on the tele and witnessed what was happening back home. #LA

cdnolympian: I was at home mad because TGIF on ABC was pre-empted due to OJ's bronco escapade.

SteveJoyner: Rappelling out of helicopters with the 101st Airborne

Hilldawgg: I was babysitting!

lindseyrosin: At All American Burger with @KevinBrettauer

itsallovernow: I was in the kitchen of the busy restaurant I worked at trying to get the cooks to stop watching the chase & get my food order out.

easygoer132: Watching the Knicks - Rockets #NBA #Finals game in a bar in Locust Valley, NY.

FrenchieBirdie: I was watching him drive pass from freeway exit in OC, on the TV, very surreal.

adamgolub: Driving from Boston to Long Island.

ChrisHangsleben: I never even heard about OJ, until about a week after it happened.  I had been hitchhiking through Oregon. found out @CarlsJr

mark_gonzales: video store renting naked gun. seriously

megneverlands: In my 2nd grade classroom...

As for my own memory of that day, I replied on Twitter, too:

latimesdedgar: Watching from window of @ocreggie newsroom. 

How about you? Leave your responses on the Comments Blog.

--Deirdre Edgar

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

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


CONTACT

Have a story tip?

Please send to newstips@latimes.com.

Can I call someone with news?

Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


LAT ON TWITTER