Archive for the ‘journalism I mourn for thee’ Tag

Dear LA Times, Again,   1 comment

la-times-square-446x238I don’t mean to annoy, honest. Can you say the same?

Yesterday, I re-subscribed subscribed to your digital media, and was told by your representative that I would also continue to get the Sunday newspaper for several months at no charge. OK, that’s yesterday’s news. Today, I sent you an email, hoping to alert management to what happened. And I conveniently provided a link to my blog that explained everything in some detail.

Here’s the email I sent through your “Contact Us” form:

Subject * Comments
Website URL (if applicable)
Message * I subscribed yesterday, and the whole process was fraught with errors and problems. You really need to examine how you interact with your customers … because it’s not going well for you.

And I know newspapers can’t afford to make mistakes right now.

I blogged about the experience; link is provided in the space provided. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. Happy to help.


I got a rather prompt response from one of your representatives:

Dear Ms. Mowry,

Thank you for contacting Los Angeles Times mobile support.

We are sorry for the difficulty you have experienced on our website. Would you be willing to provide the exact error you receive upon subscribing? In addition, we appreciate if you can send a screenshot of the error. We look forward to hearing back from you.

In the interim, you can try to subscribe through this link:

If you require further assistance, please call our Customer Service at 1-(800) 252-9141 or simply respond to this email.


Lemuel Florague

A few notes about that response:

  1. I do not self-identify as a Ms. Perhaps there are other LA Times’ communicants named Henry that do so, but I do not. Mr. Mowry, or actually, just Henry, is a great way to address me.
  2. I cannot provide a screenshot of the error message, as I did not save it, and if you had read my email, you would have learned that the error was addressed yesterday. Before I wrote you.
  3. Thank you for providing the link to your subscription screen, but if you had read my email, you would have learned that I subscribed yesterday. Before I wrote you.
  4. You might want to check your customer service records about my subscription; I’m sure the 3 people that I spoke with yesterday kept good notes that would illuminate the issues for you.
  5. Oh, and if you had read the blog that I referenced for you, and that I linked for you, that would have helped as well.

I did respond to your email, however, as follows:

Feel free to read my blog, and then get back to me. Your questions will be answered when you do that.

Unfortunately, you did not respond to that email, so I don’t know if you’re still confused about my subscription status. Or my gender identity, for that matter.

Please advise.



One Of Your Newest, Frustrated Subscribers

Dear LA Times,   1 comment

I used to be very frustrated with your circulation department; it was the worst. I canceled my subscription years ago … and yesterday, my wife and I decided it was time to re-subscribe. After all, you had sent me multiple emails over this holiday weekend asking me to do exactly that.


We had both found a series of articles that you published recently about a battle between an Irvine PTA president and a power couple – parents of a 6-year old boy – that decided to take her down, no matter what. Velda tried to read the article, and failed as she was not a subscriber. I got linked to the article through a Facebook personality I follow, and I read the article perfectly well. And I was not a subscriber.

At least, that I knew of.

I tried to give you money to start a subscription, and your website wouldn’t let me. I was told I had to call subscription services, so I did.

They lied to me, and 11 minutes of my life was gone.

I told them I wanted to give you money and receive the Sunday printed edition as well as unlimited digital access for both of us. Total cost: $9.99 for 13 weeks, like your offer said. Sold!

But subscription services would not take my money. They told me I was getting a free subscription to the Sunday paper for 26 weeks (didn’t ever ask for that, and you never told me. Gee, thanks!). All I had to do was go to latimes/activate, and I could activate the digital access part of the subscription.


So, I had to call back, get another subscription department drone on the phone, and try again. This person “saw the error on my account” and told me I had to talk to the digital subscription department to get it fixed. That brought me to Erica.

I told her the whole story: how I wanted to give her money, and the website wouldn’t let me. How I wanted to be a subscriber.

I did what she told me while we were still on the phone together.


She then tried to subscribe for me in parallel, and she got it to work, but not by doing what I asked. You see, I actually asked to stop the free delivery of the Sunday paper, and allow me to pay for it.


Erica did do a paid subscription for digital access, which I was assured would work for both Velda and I after 4 days of processing time. Apparently, the whole computer subscription idea takes 4 days, so your servers must be really slow, but that’s another problem.

Back to my situation.

After two phone calls, conversations with 3 people in your circulation department, and a 23 minute conversation with Erica who at least took some of my money, here’s what I now have:

  1. A free subscription to the Sunday paper, which I offered to pay for several times … but, no. It’s free, and I better like it.
  2. A paid subscription for digital access, costing $0.99 per week for 4 weeks, and then $1.49 per week after that. And, when it’s magically processed on your end, I should be able to register Velda for no additional charge.

She said. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, dearest LA Times, please allow me to say that you have the worst circulation department I have ever dealt with. THE WORST. You should fire everyone with “Manager,” “Director” or, God forbid, “Vice President” in their title in that area and start over.

After all, I had to call to give you money today, and not one person was able to take that money and give me a paid subscription. Your bureaucracy could not get out of its own way.

Journalism, I mourn for thee.


Henry Mowry

  • Free Subscriber to the Sunday edition of the LA Times
  • Paid Subscriber to Digital editions of the LA Times

PS: the piece by Christopher Goffard called “FRAMED” sold this subscription. I hope you give Christopher a raise.


LA Times: FRAMED, A Mystery In 6 Parts

(non-subscribers can read 5 articles on per month, and I highly recommend you read this one)


Getting Your Click   Leave a comment

Another annoying trend of news sites these days is finding tricky ways to get you to click on sponsored links … and get paid for tricking you.

I appreciate that journalists need to get paid, I truly do. However, publishers need to pay them using revenue from real journalistic work … not thinly disguised ploys to get you to click on sponsored content. In some cases, sponsored content is almost impossible to discern from normal content. That is always a case of a publisher getting greedy – they are willing to sully their brand by associating with poor content, all in the name of getting your click. That’s just bad curation … like we see here:

1. Don’t read “Around The Web” sections. These are mass-produced articles … made to get you interested enough to click through. When you do, you’ll find almost no content, surrounded by ads.

I was reading about the inauguration of President Wilson in The Atlantic ... and these are the ads that accompanied that historical article on my computer.

I was reading about the inauguration of President Wilson in The Atlantic … and these are the ads that accompanied that historical article on my computer. For the record, I don’t drink wine, I don’t buy bikinis, I don’t have a fuel efficient car and I am not looking for a job. The Rockler ad makes sense … but I’m not interested in any of the pictured products. All in all, an advertising FAIL.

2. Don’t read Facebook’s “answer 10 questions and find out what kind of a _________ you are.” Or find out where you belong. Or what character you are like. These are simple things, yes, but they are asking you to spend time answering a survey to find out what some faceless dweeb has determined that your answers qualify you to be. No thank you.

3. Don’t read anything on Facebook that’s sourced from BuzzFeed. Or Thrillist. See # 1. Solution: click on the carrot in the upper right hand corner of an offending story, and select “Hide everything from BuzzFeed,” and Facebook will remove it from your feed, permanently.

This is exactly the kind of FB advertiser I'm talking about. I don't know who Mike the copywriter is ... but I'm pretty sure this isn't his picture.

This is exactly the kind of FB advertiser I’m talking about. I don’t know who Mike the copywriter is … but I’m pretty sure this isn’t his picture.

4. I respect Facebook advertisers … but those idiots that pair their message with a picture of a pretty young lady that has nothing to do with their product (like a “start a new career with woodworking” site I saw this week) are beneath contempt.

5. “You Might Also Like” … no, no, I won’t. This so-called feature runs below news and sports stories on several sites. In light gray type to the right of that headline, you’ll see “Promoted Content By Taboola.” This is simply pay-for-play from all of these “news” sources. The content is not good, no matter how interesting the pictures and how intriguing the headlines.

6. Bleacher Report, one of my sports sites, has a habit of producing stories that gather quick summaries on just about any topic, and then packages them for every team in the league. Or every team in college football. Or every Top 25 team. Whatever. In each case, the coverage is brief, to be kind, and the result is you click though 10 or 15 or 25 pages just to find a small nugget of information on the 2 or 3 teams or players that you’re interested in. Waste. Of. My. Time.

7. Here’s my new rule of thumb with Facebook videos. When a friend shares them, I check out the displayed link. If I am familiar with the website, I may click through. If I don’t know the website … I probably won’t click, unless my friend explains why I should in their post. But I probably won’t click if I don’t know the host site … because it’s probably another “pay for click” type presentation, and I just don’t have time to watch another cute animal video. Or see what the policeman’s dance moves are like during Mardi Gras.

8. Pop-overs & pop-unders are those annoying new web pages that open on your browser without warning when you enter or exit a site. The former opens on top of the content you’re trying to read and is, of course, the most annoying and the highest compensated by the annoying insurance and home loan companies that seem to always buy them. The pop-unders are actually more insidious, as you often don’t know the source of the ad … you don’t even see it until you start closing down your browser. There’s only one solution: close them quickly & don’t support the sponsors’ annoying marketing practices with your business.

I’m probably getting my curmudgeon on here. Sorry about that.

Simply, I don’t have time to wade through all of the low-quality content attempting to masquerade as journalism … I have little enough time for the good stuff.

Journalism, I mourn for thee.

Sportsmanship   Leave a comment

Sportsmanship 02I seem to have lost my way. Perhaps I no longer understand what sportsmanship is in today’s culture, as we approach Superbowl XLVIII.

Robert Sherman’s postgame interview after his team won the NFC Championship became something as a sensation, as this amped-up, child of the inner city and Stanford graduate became a cause celebre. Here’s his confusing interview that made him one of the top stories heading into the Superbowl.

Want more? He’ll have another interview with Erin Andrews, airing in the “5-6 hour” of pre-game Superbowl coverage. When is that? No idea, but that’s what ESPN told me last night in a pre-game promo interview.

Sportsmanship 01

Sportsmanship is considered old fashioned in some circles … but is there anything wrong with shaking hands with a competitor after the game?

The second strike against my believing I understand today’s media is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This bastion of old school journalism has hired a hater … called The Hater … whose job is to hate for his readers. Just in case they can’t find enough things to hate in the sports world without him. Here is what  they say:

In the city that’s too busy to hate, but where our most-cherished rivalry is considered “clean, old-fashioned hate,” let The Hater find the latest in sports that just needed to be hated on.

The Hater Blog

I never knew that I needed people to hate for me. Thank goodness old media is leaping into that breach.

Finally, I subscribe to the RSS feed of Bruins Nation. This week, I was banned from commenting on the board because I disagreed with the opinion of one of their authors. This author was incessantly attacking the UCLA basketball coach – incessantly. This coach, new to UCLA, came in with a regrettable past, but he’s contracted to be the coach for 7 years. The author takes total exception to this situation, and blogs about his  lack of desire to even watch UCLA basketball games. Remember how he’s a blogger on a sports blog? Here’s what I said:

When a sports journalist blogger thinks that not watching games qualifies him to comment on the game, it’s time for a re-evaluation. As much as I agree with some … SOME … of what you write, this is the last column of yours that I will read.

Endless whining is not effective commentary. I suggest you get a new hobby, since you don’t like watching basketball anymore.

I was immediately banned from the blog, insulted publicly and repeatedly, and thrown under the bus for not hating the coach like the author does.

Apparently I don’t always understand sports reporters.

Journalism, I mourn for thee.

More Sportsmanship “Unbelievable” Act Of Sportsmanship

ESPN: Fans Behaving Badly

Posted January 27, 2014 by henrymowry in Media, Sports

Tagged with , ,

Money vs. Having A Backbone   3 comments

NewspapersI’ve spent most of my career in journalism … well, the bastard step child of journalism. I worked in the trade press.

The trade press was often viewed with disdain by the mainstream press, as the trades were known to cut journalistic corners in order to serve their industry. They were advocates, not investigative journalists.

So, the mainstream press sneered. Rightly so.

Flash forward past the digital revolution that gutted the “free press” in the name of “free information,” and you find that just about every remaining news outlet is struggling to find that sweet spot between viability and profitability that the new economies of the information age will allow.

And if you’re a printed publication, you’re on the edge of annihilation. From the Cincinnati Post to the Rocky Mountain News, newspapers have disappeared in major markets all across the country. This trend continues. And, even the survivors are a shadow of their former selves. Narrower. Thinner. Smaller.

Given the economic pressures on publishers, it’s no surprise that compromises are being made.

But this week, one compromise became public that’s particularly egregious. Integrity has been besmirched … because of a football coach.

ALA @ USCThe South Carolina Gamecocks are led by Steve Spurrier. He’s a big deal.  Spurrier was a great college quarterback, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1966 while playing for the Florida Gators, playing in the NFL for ten years, and then returning to Florida to lead them to a consensus national championship in 1996. Recently, he’s been coaching the University of South Carolina (that other USC) to new heights. And that’s where this story turns ugly.South Carolina Gamecocks

Spurrier has had an ongoing feud with a columnist for The State, Columbia, South Carolina’s newspaper. The columnist, Ron Morris, has been banned from covering Gamecocks football in any way. Because the coach said so.

Banned? Yup. Morris was forced to sign an agreement by his publisher that he would not write about the Gamecocks again, or he would be fired. When you’re a newspaper sports columnist told by your boss not to cover one of the biggest teams in the state, that’s a big deal.

In 2011, Spurrier once refused to do a press conference because Morris was in the room. He’s been refusing to answer his questions since 2009 … but thought that the journalist was asking questions by proxy through other journalists, so Spurrier walked out because Morris was in the room.

Why? Spurrier: “He’s a negative guy.” Here’s what Spurrier told Jim Romenesko, who broke the story:

“Ron Morris just wrote stuff that wasn’t true about me and I reacted,” Spurrier told me over the phone last Thursday. “I was fine with him the first five or six years here, and then he would write stuff that wasn’t true.”

Did he complain to The State’s publisher? I asked.

“I complained to the world about him. I complained to Gamecock Nation on my radio show. But don’t put that on me” that Morris can no longer write about Gamecocks football. “He is responsible for that.”

After this story broke on Tuesday, The State has retreated from their spineless position, after having media commentators and the sports blogosphere erupt with a universal condemnation of their handling of the situation. It’s one thing for Coach Spurrier to not like the criticism. It’s quite another for a leading newspaper to remove a seasoned journalist and replace him with a fan to write about the team.

The executive editor of the paper, Mark Lett, has released a statement to staff that obfuscates the paper’s role in the situation. He even says that Morris can write about anything he wants … but tempers have to cool first.

Journalism, I mourn for thee.

More The State Tells Its Sports Columnist He Can’t Cover University Of South Carolina Football

Jim The State: It’s Now OK For Columnist Ron Morris To Write About Gamecocks Football

Deadspin: Reporter Who Was Critical of Steve Spurrier Replaced By Spurrier’s Pal Scandals, Scandals, Scandals