When Will Campbell called to drop his subscription after the paper axed his favorite Outdoors section, the handler on the other end accidentally read him the spiel for the Bob Scheer callers: "That is part of a bigger plan to resign -- redesign! -- the [unintelligible] Op-Ed pages of the paper --."
I've been hearing this a lot. Readers call to quit or adjust their subscriptions, and hear promises from the circulation department that the paper is changing its political stripes. They also get offered incredible deals to stay. Some examples, from my recent email:
⇒ "How desparate is the LAT? After a life time of subscribing, I bailed because of the bias in Section I, because it seems mostly intended for the West Side elite, and because of the crappy coverage (none) for my area, Santa Clarita. Today I get an offer to give me 7 days a week, home delivered for one year, for $99, which is a buck less than the flypaper local rag. In addition, the LAT will give me a year's free subscription to GQ, or Wired, or… So the new LAT deal will be a daily cost of less than 3 cents a copy, including Sunday. Now I'm trying to figure, is it worth it?"
⇒ "One year free, on weekends with a $9.95 Wired Magazine renewal. When the year was up, they offered to extend it, Wed to Sunday, for $2.15 a month. When I explained that I was already getting the rest of the week (Mon-Friday) under my wife's name, they agreed to give me the whole week for $11.99 a month. In doing this, they called nine or ten times. Just today, in fact, they called again on the Wired subscription (that presumably lapsed several months ago.) New offer: They'd extend the weekend subscription to include Wednesday, Thurs and Friday at no extra charge. When I explained that I had already canceled the weekend (Wired promo) subscription, they launched into a spiel that the paper was getting better, there was lots of new celebrity coverage, and Michael Kinsley was gone. (Yes, they mentioned Kinsley by name.)"
⇒ "Every Sunday morning in Hancock Park, a private company delivers a poly-bag of LA Times Sunday advertising inserts to every home our block. It's not all the inserts, but Sears, J.C. Penny, and (sometimes) OSH, Anawalt, and Target. Doing my research, I called the company to find out about this. Their answer? These advertisers have lost faith in the market penetration of the LA Times, and have gone to an alternate delivery system of their Sunday ads. And in a wild coincidence, the Daily News is now being delivered free on Sundays in this neighborhood. Odd, no?"
⇒ "I had to re-up with the LAT after a credit card was stolen a couple months ago. I called and before I gave them the new number, I asked what rate I was paying - it was $60/quarter. "Do you have any special deals now?" "Hold on." pause "We can offer you a year at $99." Not bad, a 62 percent drop just by asking the question. Twenty-seven cents a day. Imagine if I'd felt like really negotiating!"
After the jump: Bob Timmermann's quit letter to the Times over baseball coverage.
With great reluctance, I decided to cancel my subscription to your newspaper. This was a difficult decision for me. I am about to turn 40 and I have been reading the L.A. Times since I was old enough to read. I would look over the shoulder of my older brothers while they were reading and learned the words. So I have been the reading the Times almost every day for 35 years. Furthermore, I have two brothers who are employed by newspapers. My eldest brother Jim is the managing editor of the Holland (Mi.) Sentinel and my brother Tom is a sportswriter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And although my fulltime job is as a librarian, even I work a few Friday nights a year as a prep football stringer for the Daily News.
I am well aware of the problems that newspapers face in this day and age. But today (Sunday October 30) I came to the conclusion that the
LA Times offers nothing for me anymore. My favorite section to read has always been the Sports section. But the last few years, I have
realized that the Times sports writers, in particular columnist Bill Plaschke, offer me nothing. Most of the writers in the section seem
hopelessly behind the times in what people who follow sports want to read in the terms of analysis and opinion. Either there are jokes
about how people who use computers are not fit to be involved in sports (which is incredibly myopic) or there is shallow, superficial analysis of events.
The sport which I follow the closest is baseball and it seems to me that since Ross Newhan retired, the Times had been unable to find anyone who has any idea of the changes that have taken place in the sport. I can find far better analysis of the sport in other online
sources, despite Mr. Plaschke's and Mr. Simers's insistence that they seem to know far more than anyone else. The lack of relevance in this
area can be applied to other sections of the paper, News, California, Business, Calendar. It's all the same. It is as if I am reading a paper that still thinks that we still live in the 1970s and not in the 21st Century.
It will be strange getting up in the morning and NOT reading the Times. In my family, we always tried to read the ENTIRE paper before we left for work or school. But now I discovered I could glance at one or two stories and realize that there was nothing in the paper that I needed to know or could not find elsewhere.
I wish you the best of luck in trying to fix this situation. But I feel that the present course of the Times and its lack of relevance have consigned it to the graveyard of other Los Angeles papers, such as the Herald-Examiner, the Citizen-News, Manchester Boddy's Daily News, the Tribune, and even El Clamor Publico.