John Carroll, In Speech, Reports Local Moves To Buy Back The LAT
Carroll, deploring corporate ownership of newspapers, made these notable remarks:
"I have edited newspapers in three cities -- Lexington, Baltimore and Los Angeles -- and in all three cities I'm seeing a new phenomenon: Local people seeking to buy the paper back from the corporations. I've spoken with several of them. These are serious people -- sophisticated people with real money.
"Unlike corporate owners, these people talk about the importance of the paper to the community. They talk about restoring its pride. They talk about investing in journalism, especially in local coverage. They see the newspaper as a fallen angel, and they say they'd be willing to accept a lower financial return, which would allow the paper to breathe again."
But, Carroll added, "Yes, it seems too much to hope for."
He did not identify the prospective owners in Los Angeles.
Carroll quit as editor of the L.A. Times last summer as part of an apparent protest against cost cutting by the Tribune Co., of Chicago, a company whose executives seem to care about only one thing primarily, making money. They would rather fire a journalist than have a quality product.
The Tribune is a company which has seldom been willing to live up to its journalistic responsibilities in Los Angeles and other former Times-Mirror cities, Baltimore, Hartford and the New York suburbs. It has cut back in all these places, lost circulation in all of them and insisted upon consolidation efforts, such as folding the Times' Washington bureau into the Tribune offices, which have adversely affected the L.A. Times and its staff in many ways.
Even as Carroll was speaking, announcement of a spread of corporate journalism was made by the MediaNews company owned by William Dean Singleton, which now intends to acquire, among other papers, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Monterey County Herald from the McClatchy Co. in a scheme which involves a possibly illegal sweetheart deal with the Hearst Corp.
Why McClatchy wants to sell the San Jose and Monterey papers at all is beyond understanding, when one considers that these papers circulate in some of the wealthiest, more influential parts of the state and would add to McClatchy's already impressive California empire.
Singleton is bad news for journalists. He, like the Tribune interests, seems more devoted to making money than in any service to communities in which his papers are based.
In his ownership of the Daily News in the San Fernando Valley, for instance, MediaNews has supported the breakup of the city of Los Angeles, a foolhardy plan rejected thankfully by local voters which seems to have had as its main object a better competitive position in the Los Angeles market for the Daily News.
There can be little doubt that the San Jose paper and its personnel, for examp[e, would take a hit, if they fell into the grip of the greedy Mr. Singleton.
The full text of Carroll's speech was available today on various web sites. It raises the issues that are most important to raise in American journalism and one of the most worthy things the former Times editor has ever done.
We can only pray that the local interests he talks about in Los Angeles and the other cities come forward as soon as possible. snd that the Tribune Co., which internally cares not a jot for Los Angeles, is willing to sell out.
That would be worthy of a real celebration here, getting rid of these low lifes from Chicago.