On Kurt Andersen, the new design, local coverage and focus groups...it's the subject that never dies around here.
Kurt Andersen's observations about the Los Angeles Times are answered well on Romenesko by Tim Rutten, one of the most knowledgeable people about Los Angeles and its leading newspaper. However a few additional observations from this former LA Times editorial board member and observer from Boston, a city with its own well documented New York "issues":
That Andersen cannot be taken seriously is evidenced by his reliance on the perspective of Michael Kinsley, described as having been imported to bring eastern gravitas. What Kinsley accomplished during his short reign as opinion editor at the LA Times was the opposite of channeling East Coast import. He took a serious West Coast editorial page and subjected it to embarrassment. His successor from New York's editorial page subsequently dismissed Robert Scheer, who in retrospect now appears to have been the nation's most relentlessly on-point op-ed critic of the war in Iraq.
We have seen New York-centric conceits before, both those of us who have lived with LA looking over the shoulder at New York, and those in an otherwise self-confident Eastern city who have watched a procession of New York Yankees world championships at our expense. Andersen's is a written, updated version of a celebrated visual, the historic New Yorker magazine cover offering a Manhattan world view of points west of the Hudson. That conceit was the one that had a sense of humor about itself.
Los Angeles has its own excitement worthy of national attention, in its cultural institutions and its leading universities. Why leave it to the New York Times to tell this story nationally, with the LA paper relegated to talking about its city only to the remaining audience of local readers? The New York radio personality Jonathan Schwartz, arguable one of his city's enduring cultural and media voices, regularly used to quote for his Manhattan audience things seen and read that day in the LA Times Sunday Calendar section. That sounded like perceived West Coast gravitas to this listener.
Indeed, why leave the coverage of the larger world to one and only one great paper based in the east? If the LA Times renounces its national aspirations, where will the New York Times find the reporters and editors like Doug Jehl, James Risen, Eric Lichtblau, Dexter Filkins, Marty Baron and others who have brought established reporting and editing credentials to New York from the LA paper? These skills were on display for readers in LA and obviously, in Times Square, the center of the Andersen universe, where hiring away is the sincerest form of flattery.
The LA Times today has been so flattened by a series of convulsions going back to Mark Willes that it is easy to confuse the ambition to be great with the ambition to be the New York Times. These are hard times at a great newspaper out west, but they do not erase the reality that for the past generation the western Times on good days has been the envy of any American newspaper for the depth and scope of its coverage.
Stephen D. Burgard
Director, School of Journalism
Burgard is a former Los Angeles Times editorial page editor
While I think Andersen's batch of LA friends are probably outlier elitists that lead him to conclude that "people who live in Los Angeles are just not that into the L.A. Times" — the people I know in LA who really care about LA read the LA Times — he is right that we should "just stop worrying what we think of you."
For the sake of the LA Times, I hope its editors stop trying to be the NY Times. I still think its a great paper, but this NYT-envy has got to stop.
Regarding the new Times front-page design...
USA Today anyone? Having worked in the advertising industry for many years, I too am put off by the jumble of typefaces. I have also learned that designers have to be reined in lest their creativity run amok!
Am I the only person on the planet who has a hard time reading text in ALL CAPS? The new headlines that are in all caps discourage me from reading them. I'm not a designer, but I believe there must be a theory about readability and whether the font is up or down.
I feel like the Times is trying to boot me out of their readership after 35 years of loyalty. Conservative pro-business editorials, decrease in LA coverage, weirdly uninteresting columnists on the op-ed page, and now a redesign that is uncomfortable to read.
Thanks for listening. I know the Times wouldn't.
You know, when I worked there, I thought the way the Times did their front page was weird, with all the different terminology for different spots on the page. But it was uniquely Times, and after a while there, I decided I liked it (not for anybody else, but for the L.A. Times).
Now, they look more like the Register or any other of dozens of papers. And the mixture of serif and sans-serif fonts is indeed very strange.
Deputy Managing Editor
Kinda looks like a kidnap note, doesn't it?
The "new" Sunday front page is hideous. It takes The Times back to the worst typographical days of the Civil War and early 20th Century Hearst.
Wild is a former Times news editor
Regarding coverage of a hospital dumping patients on Skid Row...
Once again the LA Times jumps to the liberal conclusion!
LA Metro Med Center did not deliver five patients to Skid Row against the patients' wishes.
The LAPD says a videotape proves its claim that the patients were being "dumped." But, the ambulances were actually PICKING UP patients for free treatment at the hospital.
The LAPD was obviously playing the tape backwards!
And regarding those online focus groups...
I also got that emailed invitation, and I've been "accepted," too, though I have a feeling that to start they're accepting almost anyone who doesn't work in media and then they'll compose the group to their demographic specs and politely unaccept everyone else.
But the thing that really got me about the qualifying quiz is that I was asked if I subscribed to the paper. When I said yes, I was asked to select my subscription: 7-days or Sunday. Well, I have a subscription that gives me Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Before that, we had just Saturday and Sunday. So are these Manhattan Project geniuses unfamiliar with the ways people can subscribe?