Friday, January 30, 2009

Los Angeles Times to Kill "California" Section

I cut my political teeth on the Los Angeles Times, so the fate of the newspaper is personal to me. Thus the news that the Times will eliminate its "California" section, which is the "Section B" local news pullout, is not good. Perhaps things are nearing an end for the paper, which was established in 1881.

L.A. Observed as the report:

Publisher Eddy Hartenstein has ordered the California section killed, leaving the L.A. Times without a separate local news front for the first time since the paper's early decades. The publisher decided to fold local news inside the front section — which will be reconfigured to downplay national and foreign news — despite what an official of the paper confirmed for me was the unanimous and vocal objections of senior editors. Advertisers were informed on Wednesday, and word began to leak on Thursday. Hartenstein reportedly planned to delay an announcement until the close of business on Friday, fearing it will play as another black eye for the Times. He's right about that. I'm told that in contentious discussions in recent weeks, the editors failed to persuade Hartenstein that if a section had to go, the more palatable cut would be to move the less-read Business pages.

The backdrop, of course, is the economy and the Times' continued free-fall in ad revenue. By getting rid of California, the Times can print the more profitable Calendar section at night and eliminate the expense of a second, earlier daily press run. (Times presses can only handle four sections per run, as
this post from last Friday discussed. Note, too, that pressmen are the Times' only unionized workers.)

The move will apparently be spun as an enhancement in local coverage, but Times officials are bracing for howls of protest from print readers who already have been canceling subscriptions over the paper becoming thinner and less well edited. Some LAT officials fear this might be a tipping point. "We can't keep alienating our core readers," a senior person told me. Papers that have tried doing away with just their Business sections have been stunned by the backlash; the Orange County Register
reversed its decision to mollify readers.
There's more at the link.

The Times is expected to makes an announcement at the paper's website this afternoon.

For me, the most important thing here is that "national and foreign news" will be cut. By shifting local coverage to the front pages, and by juggling the press runs to accomodate the Calendar section (
the logistical motivations for which vary), the paper will lose whatever reputation it had earned as one of the nation's most important outlets for original reporting and analysis on Washington politics and international affairs. The Times will look like a "company town" paper to the Hollywood entertainment community, and since most media observers suggest local news will be the future of the print media industry, at least the Los Angeles Times will have perhaps the most glamourous local market with which cover for an expected worldwide audience.

6 comments:

dmarks said...

The Detroit papers are running themselves into the ground, too, and might deliver two fewer days per week.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks dmarks...

Righty64 said...

The end of the Left Angeles Times can not come soon enough for me. Like you, I grew up with the Times, but it has become the movie industry rag. And thus caters to that crowd. It has not cared to look for a wide audience in years. When the old Herald-Examiner went out of business 20 years ago-OUCH!-so did the Times. It so thought that it won and could do what it wanted. In reality, the Times should have made a better effort to get those Herald-Examiner readers. Oh well. Maybe they can petition their patron saint, Obama, for a bailout!

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Righty: For a long time I just read the paper without worrying about the bias. After 2003, of course, and the war in Iraq, I became disgusted not just with LAT, but just about everything else. It's good to have a strong local paper, with international coverage, so even the loss of the "Left Angeles Times" would be a bummer.

JBW said...

"Left Angeles Times" Great! Honestly Don, I don't read newspapers anymore (there's this thing called the Internet...) but your characterization of this institution is priceless. You earned your PhD today, professor. This is why I take your academic musings so seriously...

Verdicts said...

Yeah, this is a great injustice. I talked to one of my friends that is a lawyer, actually their a Los Angeles personal injury attorney but they still know about law and they said there's nothing that can be done.