Los Angeles Times: Once a Great Newspaper

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jack Briggs, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    We are all familiar with the unsettling demise of some and downsizing of many newspapers in this country. A great industry appears to many to be in its death throes. And, of course, I am an editor at one, Los Angeles' daily for the legal community.

    The Los Angeles Times, however, has always been special to me. And for most of my years, it has been a daily ritual to read the newspaper of record on the West Coast -- and, since the early 1970s, one of the four or five greatest newspapers in the country.

    No more, however. Ever since the Chandler family sold its ownership of the Times to the Chicago Tribune at the end of the twentieth century, every change made at the paper has only resulted in a product that is not as good as before. For me, it all started with the sacking of the Times's most popular columnist, Robert Scheer. What I had heard was that the Tribune's publisher simply did not like Scheer's work (which was -- and is -- very much left of center).

    Add to that the scandal that erupted around the Staples Center entertainment complex in downtown, in which top editors at the Times basically gave in and did a promotion of the Staples Center in what was, to me, a horrifying Sunday edition, and things did not look so hot.

    Over the years, the Tribune only made matters worse. Typestyle formats were changed and resulted in what looked like a knock off of the New York Times. The "Los Angeles" section (or Section B) was changed in 2001 to the "California" section, to "broaden" its appeal, and entire offices located outside the Spring Street complex, along with those editions of the Times were shuttered altogether.

    Then Sam Zell purchased the Times from the Tribune and brought to the newspaper his utter disregard for news per se and instituted a strictly bottom-line orientation to the paper.

    As a result, the editorial staff has been halved. And that "California" section? Dropped completely. All the while, still more changes have been done to the paper's layout, its logo, and its coverage. (Don't get me started on the paper having dropped entirely its separate Sunday book review supplement.)

    This morning, another disturbing change. One of my favorite remaining columnists, Rosa Brooks, turned in her final column. She is taking a job in the current administration, only too ready to leave what she believes is a dying industry.

    As for me, I am beginning to wonder why I even still purchase the Los Angeles Times. I mean, look at the cover of this morning's edition, with the bottom of the front page and part of the left side dominated by advertising.

    It didn't used to be this way. And I am thinking of giving up on this once-proud institution. So sad.

    To the residents of the increasing number of towns and cities who are witnessing the shuttering of newspapers and/or the cessation of home deliveries or the conversion to "online editions" only, I feel for you and I know what it is like.
     
  2. Michael Harris

    Michael Harris Screenwriter

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    The amazing thing about the newspaper business is that to cut costs, they have to diminish their product, which drives away more readers, which means they have to cut costs, etc. It would be like the car companies cutting costs by removing the wheels.
     
  3. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    The roll of shuttering newspapers is getting longer. On the west coast the LA Times, SF Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and others appear to be in poor health.

    Could you imagine a day when the "newspaper of record" for California is the San Jose Mercury-News? [​IMG]
     
  4. Dave B Ferris

    Dave B Ferris Screenwriter

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    I'll miss Rosa Brooks, as well, although I think Tim Rutten is still doing superb work.

    To be honest, though, I thought Jack's original post was in reference to today's controversy, which in some ways may turn out to be as bad as the Staples Center debacle: the fake news story on the Front Page, no less, which is actually an ad for the new TV show, Southland. I've already heard reports about this controversy on local radio, and there is also a link in the news area at IMDB.
     
  5. Johnny Angell

    Johnny Angell Played With Dinosaurs Member

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    In what seems like another lifetime, I used to live in San Diego and I subscribed to the Sunday edition of the Times. I always looked forward to my morning coffee with the Times.

    There was a time when the news departments of the major networks were not expected to make money, but report the news. Now they're profit centers like any other department. Well, at least we still have print[​IMG] Newspaper people used to own and publish the papers, now the papers are owned by business men. Where is the investigative journalism going to come from?

    If a newspaper can't make it in a large city like LA, where can a paper thrive? I've not read the Times in years, but I too mourn it's decline.
     
  6. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    And in other breaking news, the Los Angeles Daily Journal has announced it will partner in a joint operating agreement with The Onion. It is not yet clear how much overlap exists in the editorial staff of the two papers. Clearly the Daily Journal and its glossy magazine, California Lawyer, have it all over The Onion in humor content since they present the facts of the cases of recent lawyer disbarment hearings.

    Jack, you may need to advance your "plan B". My brother and nephew are both journalists and I see things from their perspective. The brother is going to die poor at a small town print newspaper. My nephew has already bailed from the Knight-Ridder then McClatchey chains to a major web-based news outlet.
     
  7. Stan

    Stan Producer
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    Our local paper also just raised its prices this week. 25 cents a day, so daily is now 75 cents, Sunday $2 (that's a 50% increase for a daily paper). So not only a diminished product, they charge more.

    I stopped home delivery in January, they've stripped it down so much the past few years.

    They've dumped loads of columns, changed to a skinnier page/small font design and dropped movie/music/DVD and restaurant reviews. Would pick up a daily once in a while and almost always the Sunday version, but after the price hike, I'm done.

    When a company puts out a product that continually drops in quality, then they raise prices, I stop buying.
     
  8. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    The problem with print journalism is that there are no longer any profit centers.

    Consider the former profit centers which enabled newspaper publishing.

    1) General classified ads - see Craigslist.
    2) Real estate ads - see Redfin and Zillow, plus RE is in the toilet now.
    3) Automotive dealer ads - nobody is buying cars anymore.
    4) Legal notices - the legal community will end up online. (The IP law community is already there with cheap online sites for "defensive publications".)
     
  9. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    Here's an idea Jack. Color advertising inserts are moving more and more away from newspapers to "junk mail". Why not ban junk mail so they will have to go back to the newspapers? This would be an indirect subsidy to print journalism without the conflict of interest involved in direct government subsidies (which by the way are being considered in Congress as we speak [​IMG] ).
     
  10. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    On the plus side, I've just learned that The Los Angeles Free Press has returned!
     
  11. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer
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    The print newspaper business in this area has really been hit hard, and the remaining product is not very attractive. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press entered a joint operating agreement several years ago, and now home delivery has been reduced to three days per week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday) as of last week. The weekday paper now has little interesting content, and for the first time in my life I am considering discontinuing home delivery.
     
  12. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I finished my Bachelor of Science in print and multimedia journalism last year. Right now, I'm using the multimedia part of that degree as a web designer for a local company part-time, and the full-time jobs I'm applying for have nothing to do with journalism. One friend got a job with the Christian Science Monitor (which has since cut back to a weekly); another eventually got a job with the Daily Comet down in Louisiana after getting back from covering the Olympics in China. The rest are working a similar hodge-podge of jobs to my own situation. In the last couple months, we've lost the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencier -- and it looks like the Boston Globe may be next. The vast majority of remaining regional dailies are making huge staffing reductions, and even the local weeklies in a lot of markets are cutting back. Until the market bottoms out and the field downsizes accordingly, it's going to be a very tough industry to break into.
     
  13. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Speaking of weeklies, Los Angeles's two alternative weeklies, the once lionized LA Weekly and the more diminutive Los Angeles CityBeat, have both gone through ownership changes and, in the case of the Weekly, having been taken over by publishers who are hostile to the paper (!).

    The Weekly, which until a year ago had been considered just about the best alternative weekly in the country (yes, better than the Village Voice, which now owns it), is now seriously downsized and its staff under instruction to stop being "so leftwing" and to stop taking on national topics. It has gone from being an award-winning paper to a thin and frivolous echo of a once superb noise.

    Also, because someone whom I personally despise, having had a horrible working relationship with and whom I consider to be sociopathic, is writing a column for it, I sadly have stopped looking at the Weekly.

    (For the record, I used to be a writer and editor at Los Angeles's previous "second alternative weekly," the late, great Los Angeles Reader.)

    Essentially, Los Angeles has become something of a media wasteland, with the exception of its top public television station, KCET-TV.

    And public television is now my primary source for personal satisfaction. If not for PBS ...
     
  14. Malcolm R

    Malcolm R Executive Producer

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    I haven't bought a regular daily newspaper for a long time now (I do read the local paper's website, though). They're mostly filled with advertising, day-old wire service news that is readily available online in a timely manner, and precious little "local" news. They also recently downsized the physical size of the pages while the price keeps jumping up ($1 for daily edition now).

    But our local daily is a family-owned venture and recently ran an editorial saying they were in good shape compared with the large city papers owned by the big conglomerates.
     
  15. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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