With all the media buzz about the L.A. Times and its new editor, Los Angeles magazine broke with its usual practice and posted on the web my story about Dean Baquet and the paper's troubles. The story is in the November issue, which won't reach newsstands until next week (and was put to bed about ten days before Ken Auletta's longer story appeared in last week's New Yorker.) My piece reports that Baquet has been ordered to make further cuts and contemplated quitting along with his predecessor John Carroll, but decided to stay and take over after extensive talks with Chicago convinced him that the Tribune's vision is in sync with his, more or less: “I walked away thinking we were close enough.”
Much of the piece is about the Times' readership crisis, which isn't driven by conservatives dropping the paper but by core readers giving up their Times habit. “I can go days without reading the L.A. Times and not miss it,” civic player David Abel, publisher of The Planning Report, says in the piece. Abel should be the prototype of a Times subscriber: he's the right age, lives in Los Feliz, was involved in Democrat Bob Hertzberg's campaign for mayor and is deeply engaged in community affairs. “In some ways it’s a more journalistically professional paper,” Abel says. “But it’s incredibly detached from the city I know...They just don’t know the city.” Baquet acknowledges that the Times has a local image problem, and says he plans to be more visible than Carroll. "We sometimes are a little reluctant to let California seep into our paper too much," he told me. Baquet said he reads some criticism of the Times on blogs, citing Hugh Hewitt, Patterico, Mickey Kaus, The Elegant Variation and LAObserved.
Times staff morale is also part of the piece, summed up by a photo caption in the mock newspaper that editors preesented Baquet's predecessor at his going-away party: "John Carroll bails out of the sinking S.S. Tribune." I have no explanation for why the Los Angeles mag website dates the story August 2005. Programming note: I will be moderating a public discussion with Baquet for Zócalo on Nov. 1 at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy in downtown.