How to kill a newspaper

Eddy Hartenstein said all the right things when he met with the staff of the LA Times soon after being named publisher last August, that he's a local guy devoted to local coverage, that, having been lured from a lucrative retirement, he wouldn't stand for Tribune-style micromanaging. In the Q&A that followed, Hartenstein clearly knew the names and bylines of the staffers who rose to question him. He smiled and joked and offered praise, acted like a star-struck fan. Now, this hometown guy has delivered a devastating blow to his hometown paper by shuttering the California section, shunting the coverage in with world and national news. Kevin reports that editors at the Times fought him every step of the way but lost, which means we readers have lost as well.

The frustrating thing is there's a better answer, an innovative answer, a choice that tweaks the traditional newspaper model and helps tell the real story of what's happening to us right now -- merge business and local news. As the economy tanks, as California goes broke, as we LA Times readers lose our jobs and homes and, as things get worse, our sense of hope, is there any doubt that every bit of business news is local news?

A free-standing business section at this point in time is a head-in-the-sand luxury. A free-standing California section, bolstered by financial and industry and economic news reported in context to what's happening to you and me, right here and right now, that's a necessity.

A Forbes profile of Hartenstein is here. LAT bio here. Info about Hartenstein's $12 million golden handshake when he left DirecTV is here. More media cuts here.

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