Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tribune, And Flunky Hiller,To Put Ads On Page 1

Thursday night, David Hiller and Leo Wolinsky of the L.A. Times appeared before a group of San Fernando Valley civic leaders, where they more or less effectively tried to answer a whole legion of complaints about what the Times has become.

Friday, Hiller spit in everybody's face, by announcing that the Times is going to put ads on Page 1.

Hiller, the Chicago toady the Tribune Co. named publisher, when it canned its second publisher in L.A., Jeff Johnson, for being an honest man, portrayed the decision to put ads on Page 1 as his own. But since ads will go on Page 1 of all 10 Tribune "newspapers," it is clear that this is ultimately the responsibility of the inept businessman who is the CEO of Tribune Co., Dennis FitzSimons.

This is just the latest misstep these damn fools are taking in their assault against their readers, and especially the Californians who FitzSimons and Hiller detest. For Hiller, a crony of such disastrous personalities as Clinton persecutor Ken Starr and Iraq war mishandler Donald Rumsfeld, it is the latest step in which he has proved himself an accomplice of those at Tribune who insist, repeatedly, on constantly spinning their papers down a sinkhole of failure. One of the cases in which Hiller was earlier the accessory to morally corrupt behavior was when he fired Dean Baquet as Times editor last year for courageously taking a stand against Tribune policies.

In this case, Hiller's usual fellow-toady at the Times, editor James O'Shea, wants to at least pretend that he has had enough. O'Shea, struggling to salvage the shreds of a diminishing reputation, issued a statement yesterday saying he vigorously opposed putting ads on Page 1.

"Front-page ads diminish the newspaper, cheapen the front page and reduce the space devoted to news," O'Shea said. "This would be a huge mistake that will penalize the reader."

It would also penalize the advertiser. When the second-rate department store chain, Macy's, put wraparound ads around Times news sections, I and others urged that Macy's be boycotted, and those ads have now diminished in frequency. It should be stated now that anyone who advertises on Page 1 of the Times should no longer be patronized.

Tom Mulligan's story in the Times Business section today, which ran on Page 3 of the Business section when it should have been on Page 1 of the entire paper, says that unnamed employees were circulating a petition against Page 1 ads. Since, however, the Tribune continues to lay off workers and downgrade the staff, I wonder how many will sign the petition. Past petitions with Tribune have been about as availing as a petition of Jews would have been to solicit good will from Hitler.

Also, in the Mulligan article, he quotes Martin Kaplan, a member of the staff of the USC Annenberg School of Communication, as expressing some understanding for the Page 1 ads. Kaplan should desist, lest he harm his own reputation for integrity.

Because, understand one thing, this is a dividing line, and those who accept the ads are putting themselves on the side of the men, like FitzSimons and Hiller, who are pushing onward with policies that will wreck the paper and have already done it grievous injury.

In the latest of his dark memos to the staff, yesterday, Hiller said that revenue is down 10% at the Times this year, and cash flow 27%.

But why is this happening? It is because everything the Tribune Co. has done since purchasing Times-Mirror papers seven years ago has been a gross error. The Tribune Co., with its constant diminishment of its newspapers, its reduction of staff and news hole, its spitting in the face of its readers, its assumption of greater and greater debt, is the architect of its own destruction.

We saw that at Thursday's meeting of the San Fernando Valley community councils. One person after another arose to deplore the termination of the weekly TV Guide, the scrapping of the Valley section, the termination of coverage of high school sports, the ignoring of political races, the printing of anti-Israel editorials, the shoving of more news out of the newspaper and onto the Times Web site, the list went on and on. Several of those attending said they had recently cancelled their subscriptions. Several said they take the Valley News, although they don't much like it, to get local news.

Although his manner was pleasant, Hiller's answers were lame. The long-suffering Wolinsky did a little better.

But make no mistake, when the first Page 1 ad appears in the L.A. Times, the dye will be cast. Subscribers will cancel in great numbers, the paper will become a laughing stock. The revenue will continue to drop, remaining cash flow will vanish, and finally FitzSimons and Hiller will be terminated. The question is whether by then it will be too late to save the newspaper.

(By the way, Joe Zekas, who criticizes this blog in a comment below, is a Chicago real estate man. I don't need his advice on journalistic values, and I strongly suspect Zekas was put up to this by FitzSimons. Both of them seem to have been contaminated by eating bad Chicago food. I do appreciate his having the courage to identify himself, however).

--

Kudos to Jerry Clark, chairman of the Old Farts (the retired Times employees association), for his comment today on Hiller's announcement. Here it is:

"The way things are going at our alma mater, I wouldn't be surprised in the future to see a small refer box above the Page One ads, stating, 'The Iraq War Is Over--See story on Page 18. after the department store block of full page ads. For more news, see Latimes.com.' Remember when we worked for a newspaper."

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get with the times, old man. This isn't 1960 when newspapers were the dominant medium of communication. I don't want ads on Page 1 either, but newspapers are dying, and your unwillingness to adapt to the realities of economics is bringing its death faster.

7/14/2007 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Joe Zekas said...

Ken,

You diminish yourself more than you demean FitzSimons and Hiller with your continual name-calling.

I find it harder and harder to pay attention to any substantive points you're making. Do yourself and your readers a favor and stick to the substance.

I also find it more and more difficult to believe that you value journalistic principles when you continue to indulge in trashing individuals in a way that has little or nothing to do with the subject matter. Move on from it, already.

7/14/2007 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm afraid there's one big elephant in the middle of the living room here that everyone's ignoring, and that is the changing demographics and literacy of greater Los Angeles. In this regard, the Times has become, in a roundabout way, a victim of its own liberal editorial policies.

Sure, the Internet and TV have taken their toll on newspaper circulation in recent years. But in many large cities, and in Los Angeles in particular, the declining numbers of people who are literate enough in English to be able to read anything at all, let alone a newspaper, has had a profound impact on newspaper circulation that nobody, especially newspaper editors devoted to promoting multiculturalism and bilingualism, really wants to acknowledge.

At this point, probably the only way for the Times to see its circulation go up again would be if they were to publish an edition which was identical in content but translated into Spanish.

But of course that's not going to happen because the costs and logistics involved would be prohibitive.

Maybe if Times editors, past and present, had supported more English immersion in schools instead of promoting exactly the opposite policy, the number of potential readers would be growing today, instead of shrinking to what will soon be a minority of the population.

7/15/2007 9:23 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...

Is the Newspaper business dying?

It's always been dying.

Newspapers have folded and others have started. What else is new?

Anybody remember the Herald-Examiner? Daily L.A. newspaper that folded in 1989. Gone, forgotten and not missed.

Hard times aren't necessarily a bad thing.

Daily newspapers are going through a big shakeout. A lot of dailies will probably disappear, but there will still be daily newspapers published.

Will there be a Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, etc. a few years from now? Maybe, maybe not.

L.A. Times management doesn't seem to have a clue what to do, though.

7/16/2007 11:21 AM  

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