Regarding all of the news out of the Los Angeles Times last week...
My heart breaks for the LAT and its staff. It's clear that the Tribune's ouster of Jeff Johnson is an unapologetic gesture to finally kill off Los Angeles' last major newspaper.
Surely, no one in Chicago believes that cutting staff is simply a "cost-cutting strategy." It is obviously a news-cutting strategy. And you don't improve the circulation of a paper by providing LESS product. I can't help but wonder what personal vendettas are playing out here at the top levels of media ownership.
The LAT has been bleeding to death for a long time now. The mortal wounds were really inflicted with the elimination of the suburban editions. Who are we kidding? I am a second-generation native Angeleno and this IS a suburban city! You don't cover the suburbs, you don't cover the "city."
But what's really struck me is that most of the print news I get about L.A. is now coming out of the New York Times. Yes, I was stunned in looking at stories in last Sunday's paper to see how many stories were coming out of Los Angeles!
Somehow, the NYT figured out that if they want L.A. readers, they had to put MORE reporters in the City of Angels. Clearly, the Tribune folks are not so dense. Firing Johnson is like the final blow to the head of a fish, wriggling desperately on the deck of the boat.
I will be wearing black for my beloved paper and my beloved city.
Former reporter Orange County Register
Former reporter LA Times Orange County edition
Kinsley, Susan Estrich and the "new guy" publisher at the LA Times are part of the problem, not the solution. They are all Harvard types. It's the "best and the brightest" syndrome (aka-Robert MacNamara) of failure from the combination of EAST COAST snobbery, combined with Chicago Cubs management style of loss. There are some great reporters at the LA TIMES. I hope and pray that some local "guys" from Los Angeles will take over the newspaper and let the reporters go to it with a raise!
You couldn't be more right. The Times has become irrelevant to Los Angeles. The NYT or WSJ provide the same or better foreign news coverage without threatening a ruptured disc from lifting the Food Section's articles on "Summer Squash." The Times' biggest competitor is PARADE.
The Times runs more stories on the pensive moods of rug weavers in Punjab than on the inner workings of City Hall.
Who are our good local judges? The Times is clueless: but they inexplicably ran a huge article on those in Nevada. Maybe the Las Vegas Sun will return the favor so we could at least find out what they think.
What percentage of the city's budget is devoted to what? Do we have a public employee pension problem? Who knows? Not the Times. It proudly cedes valuable space for tedious and pedestrian musings by Erin Aubry Kaplan or Joel Stein, who must have been hired from Tigerbeat.
In neighborhoods city-wide, the blue-bagged NYT's outnumber the LAT's by a huge margin. How sad. But how predictable.
But the Times was and is ashamed of LA. Its was always too "important" to provide mere "LA news." Its owners and publishers were so much citizens "of the world" they missed one of the biggest stories in the last 30 years, the rise of Prop 13. The Times was in sync with Sacramento's bloated budgets never catching a glimmer of the rage of its homeowners. In raging now against Prop 13 the Times bears its own share of responsibility for a measure it helped pass by ignoring the city in which it ostensibly is based.
Did the Times care about LA? Only if it involved studios, government jobs or a museum's new roof: but the departure of hugely significant manufacturing, banking and other headquarter businesses with their charitable contributions and taxes not to mention jobs, occurred without any interest at the Times.
I take no glee in this: we are all losers for having a valuable local media finally humiliated by owners in another city. More amazing: as the Times howls that it is a valuable local paper the group there cannot understand why the response is a yawn.
YIKES! Tim Cavanaugh comes from Reason Magazine's website.... The Times would do better to hire someone away from Mad Magazine. Reason is truly nutty. These "libertarians" question basic public services like fire protection, libraries, and zoning. I look to the Times and other "real" newspapers to build community and public confidence, and to serve as the watchful eyes of the public as well as the vehicle for unbiased voter/citizen education. The right-leaning anti-government snobs who increasingly populate the Times Op-Ed, and now Editorial pages have led this life-long subscriber to skip the back of the B section after I read the obits.
The following is a copy of 2 emails I sent to firstname.lastname@example.org (and also to Leo Wolinsky, Patt Morrison and Bill Boyarsky) back in 2000 and 2002, and to email@example.com today. That's because I think they're just as applicable now, in 2006 -- growing influence of the Internet and a corresponding decline in subscriptions, readers' attention spans and advertising notwithstanding -- as they were over 4 to 6 years ago.
Subject: Times columnist's take on Tribune & The Times
Mike Downey's column, L.A. Times, 3-15-00:
> In our neck of the woods, Da Trib was a class act.
> It was handsome, it was haughty, it was filthy rich,
> it was deadly dull, it was pedigreed, it was powerful
> and it was everywhere.
In the Sulzberger's and Graham's (and the national media's) neck of the woods, "Da Trib" is...ignored. The Chicago Tribune has never evolved beyond a second-tier, Second- (or 3rd, 4th, 5th) City status. At least the somewhat less overlooked L.A. Times was able to progress---in a more visible, noteworthy way beginning around the early 1980s---to a position of distinction as a part of this country's trio of truly respectable urban dailies.
> What do they fear is going to happen, though? A
> Chicagoization of L.A.? Maybe they think editors
> from Da Trib are going to fax hourly messages from
> the heartland to The Times' newsroom: "SHORTER
> SENTENCES!" "PLAY UP WEATHER REPORTS
> MORE!" "WHO CARES ABOUT DODGERS,
> ANYWAY?" "MORE ABOUT FARMING, LESS
> ABOUT SURFING!"
How about a fear of being influenced by a company that has allowed its flagship paper to remain, among other things, one of the most graphically unsophisticated in America? Isn't the Trib's front-page logo still encased in a corny blue box, and aren't its typefaces kind of, well, boonie, and etc., etc.? Maybe this kind of look is okay for a Penny-Saver-throwaway newspaper, but for a publication of high quality?
> I would worry more myself if this takeover bid were
> being made by, say, the ownership of the New York
> Post. Then, instead of award-winning foreign coverage
> from Sri Lanka, we would probably provide you with
> more comprehensive Page 1 coverage of Ivana Trump.
L.A. Times, 3-14-00:
>> The Tribune's once-envied network of
>> bureaus has been whittled from a 1987
>> high of 11 domestic offices with 32
>> correspondents to six bureaus and 27
>> writers today.
I can't imagine the scope of the Chicago Trib's international staff being much more impressive. And like it or not (in particular to those people who prefer a daily with a preponderance of local news, which, admittedly, is what most subscribers out there favor), any writer working for the New York Times, including those covering that paper's metro scene, automatically has more cachet because of his or her association with an organization internationally renowned for thorough, superb coverage of the nation and world in general, for unrivaled professionalism in journalism overall----will the N.Y. Times Book Review or Sunday Magazine, for example, ever be mistaken for something produced by the Miami Herald, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Detroit Free Press, Denver Post, etc.?
> Tribune Co. is a ready-for-the-21st-century
> company, one with a TV superstation, an
> acclaimed Web site and a baseball team
> that will win the World Series no less than
> once in the next 100 years. Take it from me,
> The Times is falling into good hands. The
> quality of this newspaper won't suffer a bit,
> and might even improve if they jerk me off
> this page and replace me with Bob Greene.
What a sad sad day for the L.A. Times.
And for L.A.
Maybe the paper just got lucky with the right Chandler, and that majestic era will never return.
Of course, I hope it does.