UPDATED, 3:08 PM: Claiming that the Los Angeles Times “showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards” in a report on the realpolitik of Anaheim, the Walt Disney Company today went on the attack anew against the paper.
“We regularly work with news organizations around the world that we don’t always agree with, but in this instance the L.A. Times showed a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” the media giant asserted in a statement of a scathing September 24 piece on the complex web of relationships between Disney and the city that is home to Disneyland.
This comes as the paper called the company out on Friday morning by noting that it lacked a Thor: Ragnorock review because “Walt Disney Co. studios declined to screen the movie for The Times’ critics, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with the city of Anaheim.”
This afternoon Disney returned that with a shout-out of its own in their new statement.
“Despite our sharing numerous indisputable facts with the reporter, several editors, and the publisher over many months, the Times moved forward with a biased and inaccurate series, wholly driven by a political agenda — so much so that the Orange County Register referred to the report as ‘a hit piece’ with a ‘seemingly predetermined narrative,’” Disney added Friday, giving no quarter. “We’ve had a long relationship with the L.A. Times, and we hope they will adhere to balanced reporting in the future.”
Disney did not respond to requests for information on whether it would allow LAT reporters into previews so they could review films like the Thor sequel and others. It also should be noted that the LAT never changed or put a correction on the disputed Anaheim story.
So much for the happiest place on Earth.
PREVIOUSLY, 1:40 PM: Disney has imposed a news blackout on the Los Angeles Times, barring the news organization’s critics from attending advance movie screenings.
The notoriously sensitive media giant cut off the Times‘ access in response to the newspaper’s coverage of Disney’s business ties with the city of Anaheim. The article published this fall examined the public policy debate around whether Disney, which has received subsidies, incentives, rebates and protections from future taxes on its Disneyland theme park, is paying its fair share.
Shortly after the article appeared, Disney stopped returning reporters’ calls.
The Times went public with the dispute — the latest expression of long-running tensions between the media company and the newspaper, which covers Disney closely and critically as one the region’s biggest employers — its Calendar section today. The newspaper published a statement explaining to readers why the section was devoid of a review for the much-anticipated Marvel superhero tentpole Thor: Ragnarok, which opens to wide release today and likely will surpass $100 million at the box office in its opening weekend.
“Walt Disney Co. studios declined to screen the movie for The Times’ critics, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with the city of Anaheim,” the statement read. “The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public. Justin Chang’s review of “Thor: Ragnarok” will appear in Saturday’s paper.”
It is unclear whether Disney’s “boycott” extends to advertising (there were no studio ads for Thor: Ragnarok in today’s print editions of the Los Angeles Times, New York Times or Wall Street Journal). Movie ads are a major source of revenue for publications like the Los Angeles Times. Cutting off such revenue would represent a blow to the struggling newspaper, which offered buyouts to senior staff this past summer.
A Disney spokesperson did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Deadline has learned that another disclosure will appear Sunday in the Times‘ annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section, where Disney’s forthcoming releases will be noticeably absent.
“The annual Holiday Movie Sneaks section published by the Los Angeles Times typically includes features on movies from all major studios, reflecting the diversity of films Hollywood offers during the holidays, one of the busiest box-office periods of the year,” the Times will note, in a statement to readers. “This year, Walt Disney Co. studios declined to offer The Times advance screenings, citing what it called unfair coverage of its business ties with Anaheim. The Times will continue to review and cover Disney movies and programs when they are available to the public.”
Editors Note: Dawn Chmielewski covered the Walt Disney Co. during her tenure as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times from 2006-2014.