Couple more things came in via email after this morning's post:
⇒ MoveOn.org has—believe it or not—adopted the L.A. Times buyouts and cutbacks as a lefty political cause, complete with an online petition demanding: "Don't cut newspaper staff at the Los Angeles Times. As corporate owners in Chicago reap large profits from the Times, there is no excuse for them to force our paper to abandon its responsibility to deliver strong watchdog journalism to the public." The call to action sent to Southern California MoveOn members follows after the jump.
⇒ At the Times-owned Daily Pilot in Orange County, columnist Joseph N. Bell chides his masters: "I'm still trying to figure out the message that Pilot parent the Los Angeles Times -- or, perhaps, I should say the Chicago Tribune -- is sending to its readers by firing op-ed columnist Robert Scheer and political cartoonist Michael Ramirez. I can't resist comparing these moves to the problems of the Los Angeles Dodgers in trying to replace star performers they have traded or released with unproven -- at least in this market -- newcomers. Whether you agreed with them or not, Scheer and Ramirez were seldom less than compelling. They left readers mad as hell or pumping their fists in agreement. They inspired hot debate on critical public issues -- and they did it from opposite political poles, Scheer as a liberal Times icon, Ramirez as a feisty conservative newcomer... Instead, we now have bland, a disease infecting more and more of the media in this country."
* Also: Mickey Kaus reacts to the post about Mike Davis spurning the Times op-ed page: "I was against the Scheer sacking, but if the Times lost Mike Davis as well .... hmmm. It's looking like a better and better move all the time!" 4:20 pm
Here's the MoveOn email:
Dear Southern California MoveOn member,
The Los Angeles Times announced it is slashing 85 people from its news staff1, despite millions in corporate profits.2 This means watered-down coverage of local, state and national news. Politicians and corporations who should be held accountable by vigilant watchdog journalism will instead be covered by a staff that is stretched too thin.
Equally outrageous, Californians are being deceived about why these cuts are happening. Despite reaping huge profits that most businesses would envy, the Times' corporate owners in Chicago simply aren't satisfied—they want more.3 Instead of admitting this, the Times points to things like "rising newsprint costs" to distract the public from the real reason for the cuts.4
The Times' corporate owners think they can get away with this because nobody is paying attention. But we're starting a petition to show the strong public opposition to these cuts. MoveOn Media Action is a campaign empowering regular people to fight back when news outlets abandon their journalistic duty to be a vigilant watchdog for the public.
Please sign the petition to the Los Angeles Times and its corporate owners demanding no news cuts by clicking here:
After you sign the petition, please forward this message to your friends, neighbors and co-workers who read the Times.
You'd think companies would cut employees when they're losing money, but the Times is incredibly lucrative. Former Los Angeles Times deputy opinion editor Steve Wasserman recently described how the paper's corporate owners are running the paper into the ground:
Tribune Co. insists that the paper deliver annual operating profit margins nearer 25% or 26% than its more customary return of around 15% or 16%. (Last year...the paper reaped an operating profit margin of about 20%, a figure that failed to satisfy the Chicago moneymen.) The paper's top managers and editors are determined to do so or die trying.
Another former Times official summarized the corporate owners' disregard for the quality of the paper's reporting as follows: "You've no idea how fast these folks are strip-mining the place...They care nothing for journalism."
The Tribune Company is forcing many of its newspapers around the country to slash their staffs. On CNN, media reporter Howard Kurtz reported on these staff cuts and asked, "Does this mean the papers are losing money? Don't be naive. It means their double-digit profit margins aren't high enough to satisfy Wall Street."3 The Los Angeles Times made up to $200 million in profits last year.
We must defend the reporters and editors who produce the paper each day but cannot speak out against their corporate owners and managers. We can fight these news cuts by forcing the Times' corporate owners in Chicago to pay attention to the readers they are supposed to be serving in Southern California.
Please sign the petition to stop the news cuts at the Times, and pass it along to others you know:
Thank you for all you do.
–Noah T. Winer and Adam Green
MoveOn Media Action
Thursday, December 1st, 2005
1."Los Angeles Times to Cut 85 Jobs in Newsroom," New York Times, November 17, 2005
2."Investors Misreading Future of Newspapers," Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2005
3. Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz, CNN, November 27, 2005
4. "Los Angeles Times to cut 85 newsroom jobs," Reuters, November 16, 2005
5. "Chicago Agonistes: The Plight of the L.A. Times," Truthdig, November 28, 2005