LAT's Manhattan Project (* updated)
Regarding the Los Angeles Times' declaration of an urgent project to figure out why readers are dropping the paper...
Does anyone see irony in the L.A. Times naming its high-level reclamation effort "The Manhattan Project.'' How about Los Angeles Project? For those of us, say, from Los Angeles.
Sorry but I can't be the only one to point out the obvious -- the result from the Manhattan Project was a bomb.
These were the suggestions I emailed to the editor about a month ago. I should have added that the Times should stop reprinting Wall Street Journal articles (such as the one about YouTube in politics.)
* Front page articles about marketing gimmicks (including Paris Hilton), the latest $25 million man to be fired, or Disney’s latest genius, goat or movie;
* Ever shrinking local coverage (which presumes that the LA Times ever actually provided full local coverage in recent memory);
* A business section comprised mostly of AP and Reuters articles;
* Comics that are mean and political rather than funny;
* A home section focused on millionaires purporting to live modest lives in 10,000 square foot mansions;
* Restaurant reviews of the same 50 most expensive restaurants every year;
* An unrelenting downtown/Eli Broad boosterism.
As the LA Times seeks to turn itself into the print version of Entertainment Tonight and report the same news which was delivered on the internet 18 hours before, I’m finding less and less of a reason to continue my subscription. Perhaps the LA Times has a better read on its subscriber base than I do, but I suspect the vast vast bulk of its reader aren’t millionaires, involved in the entertainment industry, or concerned with what happens to Mel Gibson, et al.
The best reporting the LA Times has done recently was its investigation into King Drew Medical Center, a story no one else would have or could have covered. Rather than merely parrot the same entertainment and national headlines already seen on countless other sources, the LA Times should reinvigorate its coverage of local city and county politics and issues with a New York fervor. Through intensive local coverage – i.e., by providing a service no one else can or will – the LA Times can secure its future in a digital age and, most important of all, make itself relevant again to its readers.
If Baquet is a friend of yours, you could tell him how to pick up about 10,000 he's lost in a simple way.
Just admit that his predecessor's policy of identifying the murderers that kill themselves and innocent, non-combatant women and children as "freedom fighters" and "militants" was wrong, and henceforth they will be identified as what they are, "ruthless killers", "suicide-murderers", "fanatics" or other suitable adjectives that describe them accurately. This is particularly true about the Palestinians, as opposed to other terrorists.
All of my friends and relatives have cancelled due to the one sided descriptions and I feel they would re-up, but only if they do a mea culpa.
This seems like a noble effort, but the result will likely be more 20,000-word tomes on some part of the world where something's going on for which we should feel very, very bad. Or, we'll bring back the semi-monthly essays on the problem of malaria in the world. All fine topics, but they drift from the main focus of a Los Angeles paper -- Southern California. There is a community character and sense of life that attracts people to Southern California, and draws people from around the nation and the world to visit and live (myself among them). This seems to diminish as the years go by, and we're subjected to oddball items such as the now-scrubbed weekly "New York" column in Calendar and ignoring much of the local scene, unless you count myriad L.A. civic-government insider squabbles and pages upon pages of Hollywood "company-town" coverage, as if it was the only real business in town. We have more blue-collar jobs in the area than a number of major U.S. cities combined, but you'd never know that. Since the Manhattan Project team will likely never reach my door, I'll offer a few suggestions that might filter into their purview:
• Get some columnists who can give us a sense of place about Southern California. The current lineup seems to wield fine-honed axes (and I'm sorry to drop Al Martinez into this classification, but it's true of late) and push the "you oughta feel guilty, Mac" line nearly every day of the week. The puppy-dog-nose-in-the-poo attitude isn't working.
• Drop the campaign to push the Pretty Young Things team on the op-ed page and bring back a few of the old standbys, including Robert Scheer. (And this is coming from a conservative.) I don't want to read more from someone who's "coming to a dinner party near you." I'd like some insights from a few old hands who've been around the Four-Level a few times. And, for Pete's sake, bring back a regular editorial cartoonist.
• Recognize that Southern California is an outdoor culture. Bring back the quirky things like the surf report and fishing conditions and day trips. It's not serious news, but it appeals to the flavor of where we live.
• You can't bring back Shav Glick, but make motor racing -- remember, we are the car culture in Southern California -- something more than a few graphs in the sports roundup and reinstitute the Friday column. The recent moves by new Sports Editor Randy Harvey are pretty glum, focusing on stuff we can see eternally on multiple ESPN channels. And what's happened to soccer coverage, given that the sport actually sells out stadiums here (and has a high appeal to sports-loving Latinos)?
Now, let's sit back and wait for another 15,000 words or so on government corruption in St. Petersburg, and I don't mean Florida.