Until recently, the Los Angeles Times was a perfectly good name for a great metropolitan newspaper of record. Publishing history daily, the Times spoke in a strong, clear voice for its place and its era. Maybe it failed to provide adequate insight into our many diverse micro-cultures, but readers could be confident it would cover and comment upon important trends and events with intelligence, perspective and sometimes even wit.
These days, not so much. Sure, as the current batch of editors would point out, the Times still hits a lot of highs. Today, for instance, it wrapped up a four part report by Terry McDermott on memory and the brain that will no doubt dazzle the Pulitzer voters for whom it was intended. Almost everyone else, though, skimmed those stories at best before wading through dumbed-down celebrity coverage that typifies a Second City take on big city news.
Day in and day out, the great Spring Street institution that shaped our region has lost its way. Despite leadershipís recent embrace of this newfangled Internet thing, a wearying succession of imported publishers, editors and corporate flip artists has yet to figure out how to establish a firm identity for their enterprise in a rapidly changing industry.
Itís time for us all to pitch in and help. Of course, itís harder to improve the actual product than the branding. so letís start with the easy stuff: Weíll choose an apt new name for the Times, and the marketing geniuses in Chicago can begin to get their house in order for the new owner. Iíll get the ball rolling with the following eight suggestions. Please feel free to email a vote for your choice or your own ideas.
1. The Los Angeles Showcase. Implies the paper is a collection of trophies or jewels worth special presentation. Also implicitly acknowledges its role as a venue for top reporters and management who are dying to get noticed and move elsewhere.
Added benefit: Performers running to auditions might pick it up at the newsstand, assuming itís a new trade paper.
2. The Los Angeles Asset. Thatís how the paper is viewed by its current owner, the Tribune Companyóas a holding to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. In juggling resources to create value, Tribune hasnít always done well. (Alfonso Soriano or Robert Sheer? Carlos Zambrano or foreign bureaus?) Maybe owner-in-waiting Sam Zell will get it right with the Asset.
Added benefit: Hey, an assetís a good thing, right?
3. Times 2.0. At last a way to hype the companyís eleventh-hour scramble to enter the digital age in full force.
Added benefit: Would also maintain a nominal link to the New York Times, which had much less trouble negotiating its move to digital years ago.
4. The Los Angeles Post. A tried and true newspaper moniker. Perfect if the paper goes to online only.
Added benefit: If not the Times, you canít go wrong with The Post.
5. The Los Angeles Write-Off. Thatís what the paper has been for Tribune and already looks to be for Zell.
Added benefit: People might mistake it for a daily writing contest, which in this time of reality TV may help circulation. Or better yetÖ
6. The Los Angeles Zell. If youíre going to shell out $8.2 billion for an over-valued property, you should at least be able to put your name on it.
Added benefit: Sorry, canít think of any.
7. The Los Angeles Romenesko. Just stuck this here in a lame attempt to get noticed and picked up by the definitive website for media coverage.
Added benefit: If it works for me, maybe it will work for the Times.
8. The Los Angeles Aspirer: Meshing its own hopes and dreams with those of its southern California readership. Rhymes with Inquirer and Enquirer, two other once-great-in-their-own-way papers. Also with hirer and firer, not to mention direr, which is what the future looks like for Zellís deal if the crackdown on junk loans spooks his lenders.
Added benefit: Sounds much more dignified than the Los Angeles Wannabe.