Monday, December 04, 2006

More Meaningless Local News Is Not The Answer For The L.A. Times

Coming as they do from the most backward, parochial and even isolationist big city in America, Chicago, the usurping new publisher and editor at the L.A. Times, David Hiller and James O'Shea, cannot be counted upon to know what to do to restore Times circulation or keep the paper great.

And, right now, they seem particularly off on the wrong tack, running as headlines local stories, such as the L.A. Fire Department and its problems, that are of little interest to the cosmopolitan community in Southern California, while giving secondary shrift to the questions of real importance, such as whether President Bush will agree to alterations in his Iraq policies.

Even if more local news on Page 1 was the answer to the Times' problems -- a 450,000 slide in circulation in six years of Tribune Co. control -- there would be no reversal of the trend toward continual circulation losses without a lot more of a marketing effort than we ever see under Tribune.

So, assuming the L.A. Times won't be sold back to local interests right away, and Hiller and O'Shea regrettably will be around for awhile, we have to ask the meaning of their preoccupation with local coverage rather than national and international coverage.

To me, the meaning is clear. Hiller and O'Shea are following the orders of the inept Tribune CEO, Dennis FitzSimons, and laying the groundwork for cutting way back on the national and foreign bureaus. The continual cost cutting which has marked Tribune ownership will lead to a terrible loss of quality in these areas.

And this at a time when foreign news is of critical importance in both the world at large and American politics.

Kevin Roderick, with his own excessive interest in the minutiae of the Los Angeles scene, may view the local news emphasis enthusiastically, but most of the people of Los Angeles won't, at least not without the suburban coverage that used to mark the Times, but instead, under Tribune, has been slashed to almost nothing in most areas.

The Hiller-O'Shea-FitzSimons triumvirate means, in a word, that the newspaper will continue to sink, and present problems will be compounded.

They come from Chicago, folks, and that's about all we need to know. They don't know or care anything about California, and they don't belong here.

Specifically, the Fire Department stories seem to reflect a lack of knowledge about L.A. Don't these neophytes recognize that only about one third of the population of the L.A.-Orange County metropolitan area lives within the city of Los Angeles?

So every day, nearly, they dig the Times deeper into low quality. And, inadvertently, the only circulation Hiller and O'Shea are building in Southern California is that of the New York Times.

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