- Jan 2, 2009
- Reaction score
Pac-12 reportedly tried to pay the LA Times for positive content, but a staff uprising killed the deal
At the start of 2019, the news broke that the Pac-12 hired a PR firm to try and generate some positive content about the embattled conference. The firm seemingly didn’t do a great job, because negative stories about the Pac-12 have continued to roll off the assembly line over the last year and a...
At the start of 2019, the news broke that the Pac-12 hired a PR firm to try and generate some positive content about the embattled conference. The firm seemingly didn’t do a great job, because negative stories about the Pac-12 have continued to roll off the assembly line over the last year and a half. But one way that the firm did try to engineer positive content was by having the Pac-12 actually pay for it.
John Canzano of the Oregonian dropped his latest bombshell article about the conference on Thursday morning, detailing the Pac-12’s plans to pay the LA Times and Players Tribune for more favorable content.
The agreement between the Pac-12 and the Times was no less than a disaster. Pac-12 VP of comms Andrew Walker seemingly promised exclusive access to reporter Blake Richardson, including giving Richardson access to SIDs at all 12 universities to that she could be pitched stories.
I’m not going to summarize the article line by line because the full deep dive is worth a read, but employees at the Times grew increasingly frustrated about the agreement, with one staffer actually filing a human resource complaint. Sports editor Angel Rodriguez defended the partnership in an email to staff, and that email clearly shows the blurred lines between editorial and advertising operations.
As for the content on the Players Tribune, that arrangement led to the content (gasp) not being written by the players it was supposedly from, a well-known issue since the site’s launch.
Once staffers at the Times learned about the deal and began to revolt, it was wound up, four months into a six month agreement. Executive editor Norman Pearlstine denied any journalistic ethics were violated, that the Pac-12 never paid any of the reported $100,000, and that the deal never actually discussed the overall amount or tone of coverage.
What a mess. In my opinion, this actually looks far worse for the Times than for the Pac-12 because it shows a ridiculous amount of naivete and a lack of tact from the paper’s decision makers. Did they really think that staffers wouldn’t find out, and wouldn’t have an issue with this arrangement? Similarly, did they think this would end up reflecting well on the LA Times as an outlet? Every time I read something that might seem a little too favorable to one party over another, there’s going to be a voice in the back of my head wondering if the lines of advertising and editorial were blurred when the article was created.
As for the Pac-12…this just seems like par for the course, right? The conference doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing, trips over its own feet, and makes the situation worse. Rinse, repeat. Just remember that over the last two years, when you were reading all of this coverage, the Pac-12 was attempting to actually pay for positive content. Clearly, the conference didn’t get its money’s worth.