The Nation's Jon Wiener commiserates this week over the LA Weekly becoming less international, lefty and political.
It's the other media takeover story in Los Angeles...When the Weekly was bought by New Times Media from Village Voice Media in 2005 for $400 million (along with five other alternative papers), a wave of anxiety hit LA's progressive politicos and journalists. The Weekly--a fat 200 pages, circulation 208,000, largest of any urban weekly in the West--has been a voice of the left for its nearly thirty-year history. It has been truly great among alternative weeklies, with news coverage and political writing that towered above its counterparts--including the Village Voice and the eleven metro weeklies owned by the Phoenix-based New Times chain.
The changes at the LA Weekly in the past six months have been dramatic: virtually no more writing about the war in Iraq or other international or national news topics, no more endorsements of candidates in elections and no more stories about the forces trying to make LA a more egalitarian and less polarized city. (Alert to readers: The Weekly has published my work and also rejected submissions of mine; it's reviewed me, and I've reviewed for it; I have friends who have worked there and friends who still do, including Marc Cooper, a Nation contributing editor.)
The most dramatic example of this editorial shift came on May 1, when the LAPD rioted in MacArthur Park, attacking an immigration rights rally. Six hundred cops fired more than 100 "nonlethal" projectiles into a crowd of families and charged with clubs swinging, injuring forty-two, including several members of the mainstream media. The story made front pages around the world and dominated local news for a week. The old Weekly would have been all over it, but the next issue of the new Weekly contained one small, 330-word piece on the event while devoting six articles and 3,700 words to the Coachella music festival.
Wiener fingers the hiring of Jill Stewart as news editor a turning point for the Weekly, and Times columnist Tim Rutten says in the piece "There was a time not all that long ago when we felt like we had to read the Weekly as soon as it came out, because they were competing with us. I don't think people at the Times feel that way any more." I'm also quoted.