Print LA Times falls to lowest number of pages

A retired veteran editor at the Los Angeles Times who keeps track of these things says that Monday's print edition of the Times "matches the known all-time low" page count: 32 pages all told. That's not good. Not too many years ago, the A section alone could be that many pages on a good day. This is a sign, on top of last week's buyout offer to newsroom employees with more than 15 years at the paper, that times are still tough and perhaps getting tougher at the LA Times. Newsprint is one of the biggest annual costs at a newspaper, and in general papers try to print the fewest pages they can get away with to carry all of the ads they have sold for the day, plus a decent amount of space for the actual product: news.

Another sign: the Times' Travel section on Sunday announced an unusual hiatus. From July 2 through August 13 — right through the height of the summer travel and vacation season — the Times will not publish a print Travel section. I don't recall that happening before. The announcement posted in Travel explains that the section is being redesigned and will return in print on August 20. Redesigns are usually done in parallel with continuing to produce a section. Travel content will still be posted online, the note says. This too seems to be at least partly about newsprint; there were few ads in Sunday's six-page Travel section. It's not killing trees that the editors are worried about.

Meanwhile, two former Los Angeles Times senior editors were the subjects of a Politico magazine feature story on Monday. Dean Baquet was the LAT editor-in-chief fired in 2006 rather than impose Chicago-ordered cutbacks — for several years he has been the top editor at the New York Times. Martin Baron, Baquet's counterpart now at the Washington Post, was Business editor and held other senior positions at the LA Times before he left to work at the NYT and run the Miami Herald and Boston Globe — at the Globe he oversaw the award-winning investigation into Catholic church sex scandals and was portrayed by Liev Schreiber in the movie "Spotlight."

baquet-baron-politico.jpgPolitico graphic

Of the two major U.S. newsroom figures who the LA Times let get away, Politico writes:

Baron and Baquet are the two most important newspaper editors in America right now, at a time when the news media are tackling the most epic and consequential story of the past 40 years. Donald Trump’s presidency has revved up the competition for news organizations far and wide; big and small; print, broadcast and digital. In the process, he has sparked a resurgence of storied legacy outlets like the Times and the Post, each of which has struggled with changes in the news business while doomsayers augured its demise. As with the rest of the media, their so-called “Trump bump” has been a boon in terms of scoops and subscribers, even if it may seem a bit like a huge bubble that’s destined to deflate one of these days.

The story talks about their friendly rivalry for scoops, and how they are good friends who sometimes go to art galleries together. Baquet is 60, Baron 62. But also, "perhaps no two editors’ careers have overlapped and shadowed one another so closely."

In the past, they’ve each contended to be the top editor at the New York Times and to have all the power and influence that goes along with that job. After decades of ups and downs for both men, Baquet eventually got that job, but at the same time, Baron got the glory and fame that only the most herculean journalistic achievements can confer. Now, their competition defines not only their careers but, to no small degree, the fate of the Trump administration. Every morning, each goes to work knowing that part of what he needs to do that day is to be better and faster than the other, while girding for the inevitable blowback from Trump’s defenders.

Baquet became editor of the Los Angeles Times when John Carroll, the editor who recruited him from the NYT in 2000, left rather than carry out the cost-cutting that Chicago's Tribune Company wanted done.

Baquet, meanwhile, was riding high in L.A., where he and Carroll had set off on a course that would reshape the Los Angeles Times’ masthead, expand the paper’s Washington team, fortify its overseas bureaus and aggressively champion high-profile investigative stories. Over the next five years, the L.A. Times would win 13 Pulitzers under the duo’s leadership. “There was a period where it felt like we were going to take over the world,” Baquet told M magazine.... In November 2006, in a scene that would become the stuff of journalism lore, Baquet stood on a desk and announced to an embattled newsroom that he’d been fired after refusing to make further cuts. It was a self-consciously noble act, refusing to lay off beloved colleagues, but also one that carried a hint of grandstanding. Luckily for Baquet, his decision to go out with guns blazing didn’t deter Sulzberger—Baquet rejoined his former paper as Washington bureau chief just two months later.

There's a photo with the story of Baquet standing on the desk facing the LA Times staff the day he told them he was leaving.

Noted: The writer of the Politico story, Joe Pompeo, has been snatched away to be senior media correspondent at Vanity Fair's tech, media and politics website The Hive. This is one of his last stories for Politico.

And a poach: The Washington Post and New York Times always like to grab talent from the other, and this time the point goes to Baquet. Post reporter Jose A. DelReal says he has been hired by the New York Times as a national reporter in the Los Angeles bureau.

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