Thursday, June 09, 2005

Los Angeles Times Magazine Had A Good Moment With Its "Survival Guide" Last Sunday

The Los Angeles Times Magazine showed its potential for success last Sunday, June 5, with a highly appealing "Southern California Survival Guide, 39 ways to cope with L.A.'s daily dangers."

At a time when the movie "Crash," has generated a lot of talk over whether Los Angeles works as a metropolitan center, this feature, by Andy Meisler, was well written and illustrated and consistently entertaining. Right on the money, too, with much of its advice.

Again, I would like to see the writer of such articles more fully identified than simply by what article for the magazine he wrote last.

But Meisler did a good job here. He had an excellent lead-in and his advice on how to cope was often pointed and appropriate. I don't know who exactly had the idea for this article, but, for once, it was something the magazine could be proud of.

Theoretically, the Times magazine could be successful most all the time. If it had pleasing articles like this very often, it would gain clientele and when it had loyal readers, it's clear it would also have loyal advertisers.

The magazine is getting a new editor soon in Rick Wartzman, I understand, and hopefully he will be more imaginative in this post than he was as editor of Business.

The New York Times Magazine is a big success, both for the seriousness of its articles and in selling lots and lots of ads. Special features, like William Safire's articles on language, have given it a special cachet, and it soars from there.

But, over the years, the L.A. Times Magazine has too often been an afterthought. Its articles have been spotty, its appeal sporadic.

A strong magazine would be a good spot -- other than Page 1 -- for major projects, but that is someplace down the road, once the magazine has established itself.

A problem with all such sections of the paper is that they are packaged poorly in the Sunday paper. They are frequently hard to find, and since they don't publish on many holidays, it isn't always obvious it is worth looking.

When I was a boy, The Times wrapped the Sunday paper with the Comics and this became a distinctive trademark of the L.A. Times. Red Ryder was the lead, as I remember.

TV Guide and Opinion are other sections that should at least be packaged consistently, reachable each Sunday in the same spot.

It should not be underestimated what a successful magazine and good presentation of other sections would mean in fortifying public perceptions of the Times on Sundays as a successful publication. Right now, it almost seems to be presented haphazardly, without design or forethought beyond Sports, California, Calendar and the main news section.

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