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July 2, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

All five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Thursday fired off a letter to Tribune Company Chairman Sam Zell scoring a spoof news section wrapped around the paper’s “LAT Extra” section. The section employed the real nameplate of the section and date, and while the word “Advertisement” appeared under it, the word seemed to refer to the photograph below it, especially when the paper is viewed folded. When opened, the picture, and one below it, show the apparent destruction of Universal Studios. In the accompanying news article, the headline reads, “Universal Studios Hollywood Partially Destroyed — Theme Park Suffers Massive Damage, but Vows to Remain Open.” There is no trace of tongue-in-cheek in the accompanying news report: “It is hard to distinguish between the real debris and the foam prop rubble that commonly covers Hollywood backlots,” the “news story” reads. “Abner Devereaux, head groundskeeper for the Universal backlot, even had trouble sorting truth from fiction.” In fact, it was all fiction, a four-page ad to boost the opening of a resurrected King Kong ride at the Universal Studios theme park (that was in fact destroyed by fire two years ago.) “Today’s mock section front makes a mockery of the paper’s mission,” the county supervisors said in their letter to Zell, whose company owns the Times. “We urge the Times to stop selling its front pages to advertisers, especially in such an offensive and alarming manner.” Late Thursday night, Eddy Hartenstein, the newspaper’s publisher, posted a statement on the Times‘s website maintaining that the ad “met our advertising guidelines. … Our readers understand the ad-supported economic model of our business, which allows us to provide the outstanding journalism they rely upon 24/7.”