Thursday, October 12, 2006

L.A. Times Self Starters May Have Good Ideas, But Will Require Tribune Support

--Written from Boston

Of course, it's good to read in the New York Times today that a L.A. Times task force headed by Marc Duvoisin and inspired or composed of such imaginative staffers as Vernon Loeb, Glenn Bunting and T. Christian Miller, is going to explore new ways of overhauling the newspaper with an aim of attracting and relating to new readers.

But this cannot be done, in my view, without some willingness on the part of Tribune Co., the present unimaginative owners, to spend some money on the improvements. And to pay for a marketing campaign to publicize them.

The Times appointed Joel Sappell to head its Internet operations a while back, but then, the Tribune executives wouldn't authorized any money for improvements, and he hasn't been able to do much with the Internet site, which is pretty woeful now. The Tribune simply hasn't invested in the paper, creating a terrible situation.

I was discussing it today, with a friend who leads a big Eastern investment firm. I compared the Tribune executives to Richard Nixon, specifically mentioneding their inability, like Nixon's, to grow into a bigger job.

The Tribune Co. bought the L.A. Times and other Times-Mirror papers in 2000, but since then it has allowed all its papers to deteriorate, because it was unable to cope with demands of the Internet age. The Tribune executives apparently suffer from an inferiority complex, like Nixon, and are unable to perform. Another thing is, they are too beholden to Wall Street, which customarily opposes virtually all initiatives in American life.

The new task force undoubtedly will come up with some good ideas. It is a talented group. But virtually every idea costs some money to get started. Certainly, creating new sections would.

In the meantime, I hope the task force can agree with management to dispense with these Macy's ads wrapped around news sections. They have been building contempt for the newspaper, and are an idea that repels readers, not attracts them.

The New York Times article says both Dean Baquet and the new publisher, David Hiller, were convening a meeting today to set the task force on course. This will be an opportunity for Hiller to show that he truly is interested in the paper's future.

But I fear that in order to do that, he is going to have to follow his two predecessors, the ousted John Puerner and Jeff Johnson, and defy the deadheads in Chicago.



Blogger matt said...

More links, and an opportunity to comment directly on, here.

10/12/2006 10:21 PM  

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