Eli Broad didn't talk specifics about his bid with Ron Burkle to buy the Los Angeles Times, but in a wide-ranging interview circulated today by the Associated Press he said some things that should help the paper's journalists get some peaceful sleep again. Among his points: he would not serve as publisher if the purchase goes through, and local ownership of the Times is vital for the paper and Los Angeles.
Culling the best quotes:
Can a newspaper do a good job being owned by someone at a distance? You know what the record is as well as I do...
I believe a newspaper is a civic asset, a civic trust. I see a role for foundations that are not totally bottom-line oriented somehow being involved in the newspaper industry and, or, civic-minded families or others...
It's important that they be considered one of the four most important newspapers in America and that we as Angelinos ought to have a paper of that quality....You've got to serve your public here and get people interested and give them things they can't find elsewhere, whether its the New York Times, or they can't find on TV. That's a real challenge.
I don't plan to be a publisher. I would hope they [the Times] would have a publisher and editor and editorial staff that does a great job not only winning Pulitzers but doing right by this great city and putting on their masthead something like, 'A newspaper for a great city.'
Also, in Friday's Washington Post John Pomfret of the L.A. bureau lands with a big piece on the changing Times. I am quoted along with historians Kevin Starr and Andrew Rolle, publisher David Abel and Los Angeles Civic Alliance founder George Kieffer. LAT columnist Tim Rutten observes archly on new editor Jim O'Shea talking like a short-timer:
On one hand, the struggles at the Times constitute a typically depressing newspaper story of plummeting circulation and shrinking revenues as the Internet and other news sources have swiped readers from the "dead tree" media. In 1990, the Times had a daily circulation of 1.2 million. Now it's below 800,000. Tribune ordered cuts, and the editorial staff fell from 1,200 to 940. Editors John Carroll and then Dean Baquet, and Publisher Jeffrey M. Johnson, opposed more cutbacks. The result: They left the paper.
But the Times' travails also tell a broader story about Los Angeles, its perpetual we-try-harder competition with New York and the challenges of serving the second-biggest city in the United States, a place that encompasses the glitz of Hollywood, a heaven for entrepreneurial immigrants, the nation's biggest port and the most ethnically diverse and oftentimes most racially divided communities in America.
"I don't think anyone could have ever imagined that we would have someone here as editor whose . . . family is not going to be here and who says he himself doesn't know how long he's going to be around," Rutten said. "It's a tribute to my colleagues that they go on functioning at the level that they do."