The Sunday Opinion section in today's Times (with an inauguration cover by the brothers behind JibJab.com, right) introduces a new feature, Outside the Tent. It's billed as "an experimental column in which the Los Angeles Times invites outside critics to take their best shot at Southern California's heaviest newspaper." In the first installment, Slate blogger Mickey Kaus doesn't urge the paper to be smarter, fairer, deeper, more local, better written, less liberal, more partisan or any of the other suggestions you hear. He argues that L.A. would be a better place if the Times would act more like a New York tabloid and run wild with gossip about things like...Mayor Jim Hahn's separation from his wife:
Gossip about the mayor's marriage would serve the larger salutary purpose of reminding us that our leaders are human beings like the rest of us. But the main reason to print gossip is that it's fun. People want to hear about sex, about crime, about bad behavior and turmoil in high places, about private lives. That's why high-circulation tabloids in every city on the planet focus on sex, crime, bad behavior and turmoil in high places and private lives. But The Times doesn't have a tabloid gene in its body. (Emphasis added)
Every city on the planet? Are there even a half-dozen American cities where a gossipy local tabloid (not a traditional paper like Newsday that prints tab sized or a free alt-weekly) has "high circulation" let alone dominates? New York is the best case; here are the ABC circulation stats for the dailies:
New York Times #3 in U.S. (1,680,583)
New York Daily News #7 in U.S. (786,952)
New York Post #13 in U.S. (686,207)
(Newsday, the Observer and the Sun aren't reported)
Kaus makes some good points about L.A. political culture and the tendencies of the Times. But it makes me wonder if he relies too much on blogs for his news these days. He opens by complaining that he hadn't known Hahn's kids lived with their dad instead of with their mother. He could have known had he read Los Angeles magazine (or the LAT, as he acknowledges in the piece).