Those billionaires interested in buying the Los Angeles Times should put their money into creating a new web-based news venture, says Robert Niles, editor of the Online Journalism Review at USC Annenberg. Same for community leaders who are concerned about declining local coverage. The competition might even be good for Tribune.
Want to protect and improve the quality of local journalism in Southern California? Great. Then go hire some of those folks that Tribune's about to lay off and start up your own newsroom. Worried about the high cost of starting up a new print newspaper, in an era when print's losing readers to the Web? Why bother? Simply start a Web newsroom instead. Worried about the loss of influence publishing online instead of in print? Um, didn't we just say that print was losing readers to the Web?....
Many blogs and independent websites feature smart, original reporting. And many more would if they could cash a check from the likes of Eli Broad to support their efforts.
Don't want to run a charity? Fine. Why not hire a few soon-to-be-out-of-work ad reps to go out and find advertisers for these existing and prospective local indie news websites? I've lost count of the number of journalists who want to start their own original reporting news websites but have not out of fear that they won't be able to sell enough ads to support themselves. They shouldn't have to. Let the ad folks sell the ads, and the reporters do the reporting. A smart, well-funded local ad network for indie websites, run by experienced local sales reps, could help sustain the quality of local reporting more effectively than any amount of op-ed handwringing will. And make a bundle of cash for its investors, too.
The point is, Los Angeles has a strong, entrepreneurial business community that shouldn't have to beg to Chicago for tough, local news coverage.
Meanwhile: The Times reports on the "unusual number of civic ties" between a special Tribune board committee on the company's future and CEO Dennis J. FitzSimons.