LAT

Kinsley's advice for Times

Forget local. Merge the best of the Tribune papers into an LAT-dominated national brand that competes on foreign and Washington news and owns coverage of entertainment and celebrity culture, Michael Kinsley argues in Current, his former domain at the Los Angeles Times. And for gosh sakes, do something about the website:

Tribune Co. is right that you don't need 1,200 journalists, or even 900, to put out a paper for Los Angeles County. Nor do you need a good website. (And the Times' through no fault of the people currently running it, who do their talented best with little encouragement from management is the worst of any major paper....)

Any newspaper that wants to survive needs a good one, but the Los Angeles Times needs a good one more than any paper in the country. Why? Two reasons. First, because it has national aspirations (or used to) with no national distribution. Of the five "national" newspapers the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times the L.A. Times is the only one you cannot obtain in the nation's capital. Being obtainable in some form is obviously essential to any plan for being obtained.

But mere obtainability isn't enough. People outside of Los Angeles need a reason to read The Times. Sheer excellence (of which there is plenty) is one reason, but probably not enough.

The Washington Post is also adamantly local in its distribution, but it has a huge national readership online because people want to be in on the conversation in the nation's political capital. People read the New York Times in part because it is published in the financial capital.

Los Angeles is the capital of the increasingly dominant infotainment-media-celebrity complex. Broaden your scope to California generally and you can throw in high technology as well. The L.A. Times should be the diary of this capital. Often it is. But it has to display its savvy as well as rely on it. In 2006, that means having a website second-to-none, technologically and in terms of content. Having a website that is second to almost everybody suggests that you do not have your finger on the pulse.

His theory is that the National Tribune/L.A. Times could fill a niche between USA Today and the New York Times. He doesn't address the Times' bigger problem that people here in Los Angeles need a reason to read it, but then he never got that when he was here either.


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