Auletta piece on Times lands *

In a piece titled Fault Line in this week's New Yorker, Ken Auletta weighs in on the future of the LAT and gives some new details on the negotiations between the Tribune Company and Dean Baquet that led to him becoming editor of the Times. I haven't seen the piece yet (and only the hed and one-line summary are online), but the magazine's press alert says that Auletta reports on a crucial June 30 meeting in Chicago between Baquet, Times publisher Jeffrey Johnson, Tribune Company C.E.O Dennis FitzSimons and Tribune publishing president Scott Smith. After that meeting, Auletta writes, the Tribune agreed not to order cuts in foreign bureaus this year, Baquet agreed to consider running more stories from the Tribune chain in the Times, and he chose to take the top job rather than resign and look for jobs back in New York—even though he will have to shortly enforce more newsroom reductions. [This was the climactic moment hinted at in my blind item that led the Holiday weekend shorts on July 2.]

In the piece, Baquet and Johnson apparently acknowledge that the Times is losing readers because it turned too far away from local news in the five years since Tribune bought the paper. Baquet also says that he does not share what Auletta calls the populist vision of editors giving readers whatever they demand. Quoting the New Yorker release now:

Its not always our job to give readers what they want, Baquet tells him. What if they dont want war coverage or foreign coverage or to see poverty in their communities? The job of newspapers, Baquet says, is to help readers understand the world. If we dont do that, who will?

Former LAT editor John Carroll adds a bleak take on all the Tribune-ordered trimming: "On the surface, its about cuts. But its also about aspirations for the paper, and for journalism itself. I think this paper is important beyond Southern California. Among other things, it is test case No. 1 of whether a newspaper chain can produce a first-rate newspaper. It may be that it is simply structurally impossible. More on all this (but I'm sure fewer words than Auletta's story) in the upcoming issue of Los Angeles magazine.

* Full text: PDF file here.

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