Thursday, December 02, 2004

Demise of the L.A. Times National Edition

Word today that The Times National Edition is being killed will be sad news to all who looked forward to The Times advancing itself as a great paper.

Due to demographic changes in the big cities, papers like the L.A. and New York Times have no real choice but to spread out their circulation and appeal to people all over the country who are interested in an elite paper.

As with the L.A. Times magazine, only a half-assed effort has been made to make the National Edition a success. Even in Northern California and Oregon, it was not circulated in many places where the NYT was sold. Their distribution, often piggybacking on local papers' efforts, is superb. The LAT seldom made even an attempt in places where many papers might be sold, such as Yosemite and Ashland, Ore.

Unless the Tribune owners are careful, by the time they call it quits and decide to sell the paper, it won't be worth nearly as much.

I knew many of the men and women who worked to make the National Edition a success. Honor to them. But the Tribune owners haven't been worthy of them.



Blogger Len Frank said...

Hello Ken --

Take Back the Times is great! My only questions are back to whom, and back to when?

For whatever it's worth I thought that you might be faintly amused by an unpublished letter to the editor that I sent during Gray Davis' slide to electoral oblivion last year.

You need not publish it -- I just thought that you might be amused...

Len Frank

"To the Editor:

"I've read the Los Angeles Times for more than sixty years. In my earliest days I marveled at the paper's firm right-wing stance as shown by its prominent masthead statement, 'True Industrial Freedom'. Back then the paper's publisher, Norman Chandler, was a conservative of his times -- a Hoover, Landon, Taft conservative.

"And if that wasn't enough, on a Sunday night I'd listen bemusedly to the far-right radio rantings of Col. Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. How times (and the Times) have changed! Messers Chandler and McCormick must be spinning in their graves faster than a contemporary hard-disk drive.

"Now the Times is more like a combination of yesteryear's People's World and today's National Enquirer. The rantings of your op-ed columnists, Ariana Fluffington, Michael Boore and Red Robbie Scheer echo the rigid Stalinist writers of the '40's Party publications.

"And your supposed news pages are straight from the Enquirer's mold. 'Schwarzenegger' is four letters longer than 'Bustamante', yet for weeks he's been the 'actor'. Somehow your polls always show Cruz to be ahead. And suddenly the groping tales of panty-less, bra-less groupies have become timely front-page news.

"Once there was a saying that 'yesterday's news is only good to wrap dead fish with'. True. But now in Los Angeles one can honestly say that 'today's LA Times is not even good enough to wrap dead fish with!'.

"And clearly the other two things the Times is not good for are truth and objectivity."

Anyway, keep on with your effort. It's fun to watch someone who knows the paper from the inside give the jerks who now are in charge what they deserve!


12/03/2004 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the L.A. Times has never been known for stellar local news coverage. It always covered the "big" story well because it outresourced everyone else. Sure, its mammoth 1984 Olympic coverage was exhaustive, but not nearly as fun or colorful as the Herald-Examiner's (Who could forget the headline "Gross-Busters" when the US team upset a heavily favored German swimmer?). Face it. Big journalism is dead or dying just about everywhere. That requires a change in mindset for everyone. We information consumers must continue to be discriminating, but we'll get our information from multiple sources, not a bloated "one size fits all" media monolith. Hopefully those sources will get out of the newsroom once in a while.

12/04/2004 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a genius to explain why The Times is dripping in its own blood. Upper management is out of touch with the experts have their hands on the product daily, hourly. This is why you watch the Hanks movie "Big"--to avoid thinking small.

Top-down styles are going out; Googles and eBays are moving in. If you see the newspaper as a consumer product--which at 25 cents it is about as cheap and disposable as Charmin (The Other Guys)--you can step back and weigh its worth. Perception, Editor: we are mighty, we are the agenda for what's important and who's important. Perception, Audience: who do you think you're talking down to? why is my sports section 1/3 the size? what's with the oversized outdoors & home--have they not learned bigger isn't better?

This is no more a problem that a good earthquake can't take care of. I'm annoyed at the pinstripe perfection mantra of management when it's transparently nothing more than a pompous perception on the part of staff here. Leaders are out of touch, but when in LA has that ever stopped the show from going on--so cliche...for an industry that tries to avoid the same.

12/13/2004 8:41 AM  
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