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Human beings are creatures of habit. We find great comfort in familiar surroundings and established routines. That's why, despite the abundance of persuasions, it is still difficult to break free from a decades long ritual of breakfast with the Los Angeles Times. Difficult, but not impossible.

The time has now come when the negatives outweigh the positives. There are many who would say that that time came long ago. So many, in fact that the Times has the distinction of having lost a larger percentage of subscribers than any other major American newspaper. And now as I join them, I shall, paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence, "declare the causes which impel [me] to the separation."

Much, MUCH more, below the fold...

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News Corpse
The Internet's Chronicle Of Media Decay.

The past couple of years have been tumultuous for the Times and its parent, the Tribune Company. Along with rapidly declining circulation, they also have been undergoing close scrutiny by investors who have forced them to seek opportunities to sell the paper or the whole company. There was lukewarm reaction to their emergence on the market, but a few curious parties emerged. They included the Chandler family (the previous and historical owners of the Times); a management consortium (of current Tribune executives); the McCormick Foundation (which is also dominated by current Tribune executives); local L. A. billionaires (Ron Burkle, Eli Broad and David Geffen in separate deals); and Sam Zell (the Chicago billionaire real- estate developer).

In addition, the newsroom has been roiled by slashes in personnel - more than 20% since Tribune acquired the Times in 2000. They have also run through several publishers and editors. The latest executive heads to roll were publisher Jeffrey Johnson and editor Dean Baquet, who were both cut loose because they balked at firing even more news staffers. Before his dismissal, Johnson wisely cautioned that, "Newspapers can't cut their way into the future." Unfortunately for Johnson, Chicago responded by cutting him. More recently we've been forced to sit through the embarrassing departure of the editorial editor, Andres Martinez, amidst a newsroom soap opera that included a Hollywood producer and his publicist, whom Martinez was linked to romantically.

Business breakdowns such as these cannot help but have an impact on the quality of the product. And for consumers, quality is the primary consideration for continuing patronage. On that score, the Times has become an almost irrelevant contributor to my sources of information. Hobbled by cuts, the Times rarely produces exclusive or unique stories. And they can hardly compete with the immediacy of the Internet. By the time I get my morning paper the news is already old. Even their Internet site is problematic because many of their stories are behind a subscription wall and since they don't have permanent links, I avoid referencing them in my columns. On a positive note, the daily read takes far less time than in the past, but that's because it consists of mainly of turning the pages to ignore the ever-expanding protrusion of ads.

Granted, new media is complicating the modern landscape for the press. One area that could help to buoy the dead-tree media is its capacity for greater depth, added analysis and insight, and community service. But editorially, the paper just keeps getting less representative of the community it exists to serve. The shameful sacking of Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Scheer was an early indicator of dark days to come. The fact that Scheer was replaced by Jonah Goldberg, an undistinguished and dim-witted hack, compounded the error.

The Times political endorsements have been conspicuously contrary to the leanings of their readers. They declined to endorse a presidential candidate in either 2000 or 2004. However in each of those years the Democrat won statewide with even larger majorities in Los Angeles County. The Times did endorse Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor in 2006, but Schwarzenegger lost to Phil Angelides in the L. A. County vote. The Times also endorsed three out of the four propositions that Schwarzenegger was peddling and which Californians resoundingly rejected. Of course there is no edict that requires a newspaper to mirror the views of the population it serves, and I wouldn't argue for one. But when the divergence of opinions exceeds certain measures, you reach a point where it is doing nothing more than poking a sharp stick in your eye. At that point there is no requirement that I continue to patronize such a publication.

Recent changes at the Times are providing more evidence that management has lost command of its senses. A graphic redesign has done nothing to make the paper more functional or compelling. They have been eliminating content throughout the paper, from the business pages to the TV guide. Their experiments on the op-ed pages would have embarrassed a high school paper editor. And now they seem to be taking the advice of a thoroughly clueless stock analyst who was interviewed in the PBS documentary, "News War." The views offered by Charles Bobrinskoy of Ariel Capital Management included the following nonsense as an argument for why the Times should cease to cover national and international news (if you can believe that):

"Readers care about the local entertainment industry, which they don’t do a very good job of covering in the L.A. Times. They care about things like fashion..."

This slice of stupidity, which ignores the fact that the vast majority of Angelinos are not actors or models, perpetuates a shallow and insulting stereotype of the 12 million hard-working citizens of the greater L. A. area. But the Times has nonetheless adopted this philosophy and will soon be debuting its latest innovation, a new section devoted to "Image." If they were truly interested in serving their readers they might have instead considered a new "Labor" section to compliment their existing "Business" section.

Yesterday, Tribune announced that they have accepted the buyout offer from Sam Zell of Chicago. This completes the process of separating the Times from its customers. Had they agreed to a deal with local owners like Geffen or Burkle, I might have taken a wait-and-see approach to evaluate the paper's future. But Zell is just another outsider who has declared that this is solely a financial proposition for him and that he will keep the current, and pitifully inadequate, Tribune management in place.

As a result, I no longer see a reason to continue to support a failed team that lacks the commitment, competence, or vision to produce the sort of world-class newspaper that a city like Los Angeles deserves. I see no reason to waste my time or money on a paper that has so little respect for its readers, and so little knowledge of them. While I generally approve of news enterprises shedding the artificial burdens of public ownership, the goals (and staff) of the new Zell regime appear to be identical to those of the old public corporation he is replacing

Until I see an organization with significantly different values, I will not patronize the Los Angeles Times. And until they demonstrate that they are not just another media profit center, whose loyalties are bound to owners and shareholders, rather than to consumers and citizens, no one else should patronize them either.

Originally posted to KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 02:57 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm open for suggestions... (21+ / 0-)

    ...for what to do while I'm having breakfast.

    • Blog This: News Corpse
    • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

    by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 02:55:08 PM PDT

    •  I've started reading a book (3+ / 0-)

      I unsubscribed weeks ago, and while I occasionally do buy a paper from one of the boxes, most of the time I just bring whatever book I happen to be reading to my local Bagel Me.

      I am getting through my books MUCH more quickly.

      Plus, I have all the cartoons bookmarked on line ... that was my major reason for waiting so long.

      So ... frankly, I'm not missing a thing!

      (I wanted to dump them after they let Michael Kinsley go!)

      •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        yoduuuh do or do not

        I'm actually more concerned about breaking the habit than anything I'll miss. Like a former smoker that can't go to a bar because they always had a cigarette when they'd have drink.

        • Blog This: News Corpse
        • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

        by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:24:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's the clincher (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I only get the paper, not because I think it's good, but because it occassionally covers local news that is not just feel good crap and it's a habit.  I've been reading the LA Times since I was 8.  I used to get the LA Times and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.  Stopped the SGVT when I moved to Venice since it was no longer relevant.  Now, I'm reading The Voice (local El Sereno newspaper that covers local politics way better than the LA Times), my gardening magazines and cereal boxes.

          I don't have to fake anything I feel, because we both know every word is real. - HBMS

          by fabooj on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:41:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Read Grist. n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingOneEye, Halcyon

      "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self." --Aristotle

      by java4every1 on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:15:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Can't tell you what to do (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingOneEye, fabooj

      but I can tell you something NOT to do. Don't read jonah goldberg while eating. Don't do it! Just Say No!

      A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

      by dougymi on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:33:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  From one who used to work at ... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KingOneEye, ybruti, Unique Material

      ...the Times when Janet Clayton ran a great editorial page and the Op-Ed and Sunday Opinion sections were worth reading, and when somebody who actually knew design was in charge, I welcome you to the world of us unsubscribers.

      My advice: Deep breathe and meditate during breakfast. There will be plenty of opportunity as the day unfolds and a new Bush-related scandal-crime comes to light for your blood pressure to ...uh ...surge.

      •  That's good advice... (0+ / 0-)

        Cancel the Times - find enlightenment.

        • Blog This: News Corpse
        • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

        by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:01:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What do you make of Tim Rutten's piece? (0+ / 0-)

        He starts out asking if readers will be better off, but veers into a long rant against the Chandler family.

        I have been a big fan of Rutten, but this column seems like he's gone a little over the edge - like he has a personal vendetta stewing. And by concentrating on that, he fails to address a lot of other more substantial matters that the buyout triggers.

        • Blog This: News Corpse
        • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

        by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:26:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll give Rutten a pass on this ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...because he has not just been a good columnist, but also a stand-up guy against the dark side long before the Tribune bought Times-Mirror. He has reasons to blast the Chandlers, most of whom are trust-funders upset because they aren't pulling in the big bucks like they were in the old days. That, in fact, was the reason they brought in a new cost-cutting publisher with no newspaper experience, and the reason they brought in Tribune. Money. Not community service. Not good journalism. The only one of them worth spit, imo, was Otis.  

          •  Yeah, I didn't disagree with him... (0+ / 0-)

            ...I just thought he went overboard and missed the opportunity to go after other issues with the sale.

            He's one of the few I'll still go online to read when my subscription stops.

            • Blog This: News Corpse
            • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

            by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:51:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Read n/t (0+ / 0-)

      The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all - JFK- 5/18/63-Vanderbilt Univ.

      by oibme on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:05:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dead tree Media (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is in a last-ditch desperate battle to stay relevant (and afloat)...
    You would think they would try to push the limits just a little bit, wouldn't you?
    Maybe the demographics tell the tale.
    I wonder exactly who is still getting their news and opinion from the morning paper, and if the publishers are simply smarming up to them to keep them?

    As for a suggestion for breakfast...
    Sleep in and catch something on the run.
    Maybe not the healthiest suggestion, but it works for me.

    TFYQA - think For Yourself, Question Authority

    by Niniane on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:14:30 PM PDT

    •  They really do seem to be in denial. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      In the face of all the new competition they've been losing market share. Then they think they can rebound by cutting news staff. They need to do exactly the opposite. They need to add reporters and assign them to the web division.

      But their failure to see that is why they continue to bleed subscribers.

      • Blog This: News Corpse
      • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

      by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:28:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm cancelling (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For the last 15 years I've cancelled my subscription to the times at least 32 times for various reasons.  The last round of changes (why did Candorville get dumped from the funny pages?) is just my last straw with the paper.  I'm sorry but changing fonts, getting rid of good writers and articles (I miss Sandy Banks!) and renaming or killing sections isn't helping.  

    Today, I opened the front section of the paper to find exactly one article on something that a) of interest to me and b) not something I read in the 3 days before.  ONE. was a special day for the LA Times.  3 or 4 articles on Sam Zell.  Much of it the same stuff, with a few new paragraphs depending on the section.

    Yeah, I too am canceling.  Maybe if the flippin' delivery person could get the paper closer to my front door I might reconsider.

    I don't have to fake anything I feel, because we both know every word is real. - HBMS

    by fabooj on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:36:29 PM PDT

  •  kind of funny (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I just posted a diary about a OpEd posted in todays LA Times by retired Gen. McCaffrey. It is basicly just more of the same type of propaganda this diary is about. If interested, here's the link

    -8.63 -7.28 Molly Ivin : "..We want to find solutions other than killing people. Not in our name, not with our money, not with our children's blood."

    by OneCrankyDom on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:39:47 PM PDT

  •  local news (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've ranted here a few times about the crap spouted in News War about how Tribune Corp. felt that LA Times didn't need to cover national or International events quite so closely. The thing is, these people are also in the business of providing "local" news all over the nation. As if having some Chicago-based corporation tell Los Angelenos what's happening in their own neighbourhoods is really what's in their best interests.

    The thing is, these bullshitters are interested solely in controlling what the average person learns about the word around them. Newspapers, radio, television—cover every "market" to ensure that the most people hear the right message.

    Those bullshit coming from Bobrinskoy and David Hiller was transparent.

    "Here they come, marching into American sunlight." – Don Delillo, Mao II

    by subtropolis on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:43:47 PM PDT

    •  Did you see the recent Steve Lopez article? (6+ / 0-)

      It was about some local restaurant selling $15 hot dogs.  I laughed out loud at this part:

      Gotay, who cooked previously at Mastro's and Citizen Smith, said he wants to cater to an upscale sports-minded crowd, so he asked his meat purveyor to get him the best dog he could find. These were flown in from Chicago, Gotay said, and I almost choked on the coincidence: The Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times keeps flying wieners in from Chicago too.

      I don't have to fake anything I feel, because we both know every word is real. - HBMS

      by fabooj on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:47:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It was pretty amazing when Bill Keller... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cedubose, Skennet Boch, subtropolis

      ...of the New York Times defended the the L.A. Times from Bobrinskoy's nonsense:

      "...the idea that the L.A. Times is going to say to readers, ‘Buy the L.A. Times, we will tell you what’s going on with the traffic and the schools and the cops and the local stuff, and if you want to know what’s going on in Iraq, go buy The New York Times,’ that doesn’t sound like a terribly sound business approach either. And if I were a Los Angelino, I would be a little insulted by that. Why are the two mutually exclusive?"

      That's the editor of the NYTimes talking!

      • Blog This: News Corpse
      • The Internet's Chronicle of Media Decay.

      by KingOneEye on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:09:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I grew up in So Cal, and spent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    those much of those years (at least after the 5th or 6th Grade) reading the LA Times until I "escaped" to Nor Cal 20 years ago.

    Now when I visit, I am embarrassed by what has become of the dead tree version -- I suppose it has been easier to ignore online ads.

    I did hear that Geffen is trying to create a joint venture and run things locally -- seems like the best option left on the table.

    For all those burying newspapers, it is mostly Wall Street whining when profits drop below 20% at a time when most companies average a 6% return.  Now, I don't know if that is sustainable, but for now it is nothing to sneeze at.  We need more divergent voices out there, the LA Times used to be one, and we could use a resurgence back to the former heydays.

    The only force that can overcome an idea and a faith is another and better idea and faith, positively and fearlessly upheld. Dorothy Thompson.

    by Intellectually Curious on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 03:51:35 PM PDT

  •  Is this Zell person a good guy (0+ / 0-)

    or will we have more of the same from the Tribune, LAT and whatever else is included in the deal?

    The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all - JFK- 5/18/63-Vanderbilt Univ.

    by oibme on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:04:08 PM PDT

  •  Early this am on CNN scroll they said the Times (0+ / 0-)

    and Tribune had been sold.  But I have not seen or heard any more on it.  In fact, I opened this thinking it would have the details.

  •  Thank goodness Paul Conrad cartoons (0+ / 0-)

    are available on-line (so you don't have to buy the print copy of the paper.)  One of the last remnants of a once great L.A. Times.

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Tue Apr 03, 2007 at 04:09:10 PM PDT

  •  Can't see the ink they use (0+ / 0-)

    when I try to read the LATimes, my eyes can not make out the words because of the ink. I can read the Daily News just fine. Weird. But I am red/green color blind, which may have something to do with it.

  •  corporate press (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It doesn't matter where or who all of the media are owned by a few corporations we will never be told the truth until we break up the monopolies,"control the message and you control the people" Adolph Hitler and George W Bush

  •  Robert Scheer (0+ / 0-)

    has been a Pulitzer finalist, but has not received the award.

    You should correct that.

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