WSJ eyes the Times too

First it was The New Yorker, now Monday's Wall Street Journal is getting in on the all-eyes-on-the-LAT trend. In today's free feature on the the WSJ website, Joseph T. Hallinan reports that the Times' Dean Baquet wants shorter stories, more regional reporting out of Southern California's suburbs and more bits on Hollywood and celebs—for the paper and the website. The Times will unveil a new web area called "the envelope" to cover awards like the Grammys and the Oscars, the WSJ says, part of an effort to lure younger readers via the web.

In the five years since the Chicago-based Tribune Co. bought the Times, the paper has won 15 Pulitzer Prizes, but it has suffered large circulation and advertising losses. Daily circulation is down 18% and full-run advertising, or ads that appears in all editions, is down 26% through 2004. At the time of the sale in 2000, the Times was the largest metropolitan daily in the U.S., with a circulation of 1.1 million. It now stands at 908,000 -- a little less than it was in 1968, even as population in Southern California mushroomed....

In some ways, the Times faces even tougher challenges than other newspapers. Many people in Los Angeles and its surrounding area are conversant in technology, comfortable with getting information online and are voracious consumers of Hollywood and video productions. At the same time, the Times must grapple with large, non-English speaking populations; distribute papers to far-flung communities across deserts and mountains and fend off tough competition from suburban papers.

To help remedy the circulation drop, Tribune Co. has replaced the Times's top managers. It also has introduced a package for readers to subscribe to the paper Friday through Sunday only, the most popular days of the week for readers and advertisers. The hope is that subscribers will like the paper enough on weekends that the Times can win them back during the week....

One major change will be the paper's push into more coverage of celebrities and the city's hometown industry, Hollywood. With this move, Dean Baquet, formerly the paper's managing editor who became editor in August, is walking a tightrope because he doesn't want the reputation of the Times as a journalistic heavyweight to suffer. Mr. Baquet says he remains committed to tough reporting, citing his dedication to coverage of Iraq. At the same time, he's considering re-establishing a gossip column. "I would be lying to say there isn't going to be tension," says Mr. Baquet.

Separately: Informed newsroom buzz expects a new senior editor over the website to be named as soon as this week, along with other moves.

More by Kevin Roderick:
Standing up to Harvey Weinstein
The Media
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
LA Observed Notes: Photos of the homeless, photos that found homes
Recent LAT stories on LA Observed:
LA Times gets a top editor with nothing but questions
LA Observed Notes: Harvey Weinstein stripped bare
Why the LA Times' new theater column needs a new name
Helping in Houston, new lion cubs, Garcetti's back
Memo: New LA Times publisher drops web widget
Warren Olney leaving KCRW's radio lineup
LA Times purge 'capped a month of newsroom turmoil'
As the L.A. Times turns ...


LA Observed on Twitter