In a different, but equally alarming, example of corporate interests having a chilling effect on journalism, one day after billionaire Joe Ricketts shut down news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist amid efforts to unionize, the Los Angeles Times has revealed that Disney has blocked the paper from reviewing its films in response to investigative pieces the LA Times ran earlier this year.
Specifically, the megastudio blocked LA Times critics from seeing Thor: Ragnarok in time for the paper’s annual holiday movie preview, necessitating this disclaimer:
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. 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.
The coverage referred to above is a pair of investigative stories on Disneyland’s ties to the Anaheim City Council. The first, “Is Disney Paying Its Share In Anaheim?,” was published on September 24, and details sweetheart deals benefitting Disney and Disneyland made by local politicians. The second, “How One Election Changed Disneyland’s Relationship With Its Hometown,” was published two days later and profiles Jose F. Moreno and other newly elected members of the Anaheim City Council who are pushing back against proposals they think benefit Disney at the expense of locals.
Disney, apparently, feels that the stories made it look bad, and has blacklisted the paper that published them. It might not seem like that big of a deal—so a few film critics have to see a movie on the same day as everyone else, so what?—but in the intensely competitive world of online media, a review that runs several days behind its competitors can hurt its publication in lost traffic, making this a soft display of power by Disney over a publication it sees as unfriendly. Disneyland is currently in the middle of building a new Star Wars-themed area called Galaxy’s Edge at its resort in Anaheim.