Parade’s interview with Benazir Bhutto
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‘Is Benazir Bhutto America’s best hope against al-Qaeda?’ read the headline on the cover of Parade magazine, an insert that goes out weekly with the Sunday L.A. Times. The cover photograph of Bhutto included the words, ‘I Am What the Terrorists Most Fear,’ a quotation that came from the interview by Gail Sheehy that was published Jan. 6.
A note on Page A2 written by the editors told readers what was behind the publication of a magazine piece that clearly had been written weeks before: ‘Today’s copy of Parade magazine includes an interview with Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated Dec. 27. The Times distributes but does not publish Parade and today’s edition was printed before she was killed.’
Not everyone saw the note, and even the readers who did weren’t happy about the decision to distribute Parade in light of the leader’s death. Dan Harrison of Los Angeles was one of dozens who had called and written by midday Sunday: ‘My wife and I were both severely disappointed in the L.A. Times’ decision to include today’s Parade magazine with Benazir Bhutto on the cover, with the obvious assumption that she was still alive. We understand that the L.A. Times doesn’t publish Parade and that it was published before her assassination, but The Times does ASSEMBLE the newspaper and there is no way that it should have been included. We read the note on Page A2, but I wonder how many readers didn’t see it and didn’t know what had happened. It is a journalistic black eye. The only reason we can assume that the L.A. Times would assemble papers that included such a thoughtless article: money.’
Reader Maureen Cobbett of Temple City hadn’t seen that Page A2 note: ‘To allow this issue to be distributed as if Ms. Bhutto was still alive is disrespectful of her memory, insensitive to Ms. Bhutto’s family, friends and loyal followers, and irresponsible journalism. Would an interview with a slain U.S. politician have been treated in this way? I think not. Shame on Parade magazine and the L.A. Times!’
By Monday, more than 100 readers had complained. In response, L.A. Times Publisher David Hiller said that The Times was legally bound to distribute Parade: ‘We have heard from a good many readers who objected to Sunday’s Parade magazine cover story and interview with Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated December 27. Please be aware that The Times distributes Parade, but is not the publisher. That issue was printed before she was killed and Parade magazine management made the determination to release the approximately 32 million copies they had printed, believing that there would be significant reader interest in one of the slain leader’s last interviews. I am sorry if we gave offense to any of our readers, but we are contractually obligated to distribute Parade and we honored our legal commitment to do so.’
Once editors knew of the plans to include the magazine in the Sunday paper, said Editor Jim O’Shea, they decided to place that ‘note to readers’ on Page A2.
The Parade publisher explained his thinking in an Associated Press story, saying in part that the magazine had been printed and distribution to 400 papers had begun a week before the assassination.