Monday, September 18, 2006

The decline of the LA Times

In ancient history the LA Times was a pretty sad journalistic enterprise. But around the turn of the fifties to the sixties the Times began to awaken. For a while it was one of the best papers in the country. No more. In the last year it has lost more than 5% of its readership. The news pages look a lot like editorial pages and the editorial pages are so thoroughly predictable that one could easily simply xerox old columns and paste them in.

About 2000 the Chandler family, which had controlled the times for a very long time, sold out to the Tribune company. That sale only accelerated the declines in the paper. The Trib's editorial policy seems to be "ignore LA" and so coverage of local issues has been significantly reduced.

There seems to be, according to the WSJ, an attempt by a couple of local people to recapture the times. The WSJ story names grocery wizard Ron Burkle and developer and schools champion Eli Broad (both prominent in LA and in democrat politics in California) and David Geffen, record producer as being interested in taking back this California resource. I am not sure how any of these - or others mentioned in the article - would run the Times. But it is pretty clear that each of them would probably not significantly change the editorial positions of the paper but would assuredly concentrate a lot more on local and California news. In the long term that would be good for the state and good for the profession of journalism - even if some of us would rather that the Times also balance its perspective on its editorial page.

One funny comment came from the story. George Keiffer, who is a local attorney that has been involved in some of the discussions about ownership by locals. He was asked about the rumors surrounding whether these people were involved in trying to repurchase the paper. He replied that he thought it would be a good idea to speak with them because, as he phrased it "I don't necessarily believe everything I read in the paper." Evidently, a lot of Mr. Keiffer's fellow Angelenos feel the same way.

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