One Less Subscriber

I’ve learned this morning from Kevin Roderick at L.A. Observed that the decision has been made by publisher Eddy Hartenstein at the Loss Angeles Times to eliminate the California section from the paper. Not to shrink it. To kill it.

I couldn’t call the paper’s customer service department and put an end to my 23 years as a subscriber fast enough.

32 Replies to “One Less Subscriber”

  1. I did the big cancel earlier…when they turned the entire front page into op-ed instead of restricting it to column one only. All I want is the facts, nothing but the facts and let me decide what my opinion should be.

  2. No California section? The Times is rapidly devolving into USA Today. I already get most of my news online. However, I still like the tactile sensation of reading an actual newspaper. I was very disappointed a while back when they turned a world class Travel section into the weekly Vegas report, this may be the last straw.

  3. California section,Weekend section(in the Thursday edition) and the Travel section were my favorite bits of the paper. One is an ad for Vegas, one is vanishing and the other one is completely gone? How is this supposed to help a flailing paper get subscribers?

  4. Will, you may have overreacted a tad. Yes, they are killing the California secion but they are not losing L.A./California coverage but, rather, folding that into the front page and recalibrating the front page toward a heavier lens on local coverage.

  5. Rodger,
    I don’t buy the spin. I’ve been railing against the Times lack of local coverage for years, which has only gotten worse over time. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. I feel like the kid in the episode of the Simpsons when Homer is beating up the Hamburgler-like character at Krusty Burger:

    “Stop, he’s already dead.”

    The Times has been dead for a while now. All Zell is doing now is pissing on the corpse.

  7. Rodger, you may be right and I thought about that angle. Certainly the Times is posing this new front section to be more local and less national/foreign, and if that’s true and there’s along overdue increase in local coverage I’ll certainly consider resubscribing. But right now no matter how they spin it, it’s less. I know things are desperate over there and drastic actions are the order of the day, but this was the tipping point and I decided to do a little drastic action of my own.

    PS. This isn’t the first time I’ve left the Times and come back. The last time was 2-3 years ago to protest the axing of the Outdoors section. That lasted a couple months, because I’m like tracon in the second comment: addicted to ink smudges on my fingertips. For the next few days I’m going to have to stop myself from going out to get the paper each dawn, and I’ll be sad, but right now the Times is in a lot sadder shape.

  8. There’s nothing left of the paper to ravage

    Yeah? And how’s everybody going to feel when there’s absolutely no daily newspaper left in L.A. to “ravage” and bash? The death of the dailies is not a blood sport for our continued amusement; it’s a fucked-up assessment of where we are socially and politically.

  9. Actually rodger, the death of our dailies is because they never adjusted to the new realities of the modern world. They didn’t learn from their competition, the internet, what was necessary to make themselves relevant again. Their few feeble attempts in the online world were to try and make the internet more like themselves…not to embrace the new paradigm.

    Sounds like a few more of our industries right now, huh?

    This isn’t a blood sport for our amusement…it is a serious lesson about outdated and outmoded business models.

    I really do hope they survive but I am not optimistic.

  10. They’ll survive, Tracon, but they’ll emerge on the other end of the spectrum in a different form. I almost perceive a return to the so-called underground presses of the 1970s when all manner of advanced (and some not-so-advanced) political and social thought circulated in the forms of hand-printed tracts and chapbooks and small community papers, circulated at head shops, coffee houses, and club venues. It could happen, a true alternative press, unlike the L.A. Weekly which has not been a true alternative news source in two decades.

  11. Here’s your answer, Will, from an LAT memo this afternoon via Roderick:

    Beginning March 2nd the paper will be presented in four main news sections:

    A/Main News will be repositioned to present local, national and international coverage and opinion together – as each informs, impacts and shapes the others in our everyday lives. The California section report will lead A, followed by The Nation, The World and then Opinion. The result will combine the stories and reporting of our two most widely-read print sections into one cohesive section.

    And oh … they’re shedding another 300 jobs immediately.

  12. I canceled my LA Times delivery a couple weeks ago. You can’t cancel or roll back your subscription online. You have to call during “regular business hours,” which is kind of odd considering they outsource customer service to the other side of the planet.

    Then I had to wait 12 minutes on hold. (I timed it, because I’m that way.)

    So long, LAT…

  13. This is sad.. I want to support my local paper, I really do. The LA Times has been a good resource over the years, but I’ve also canceled my subscription.. maybe they should ask the gov. for a bailout..

  14. Media has changed and newspapers, which served our needs so well for so long that we considered them a bastion of any civilized society, no longer offer up the immediacy, responsiveness or openness that newer media offers. It is unfortunate, but I still believe that print will only survive as a luxury item, the way a glossy magazine in the hands gives a lady-who-lunches something to do while she’s getting her toes done at the nail salon. I also see print living on for nostalgia’s sake among the intelligentsia, with pubs like The New Yorker & Atlantic Monthly persisting so that the bourgeoisie can peruse them while sipping cafes au lait.
    I’d like to believe this would all herald a return to hyper-local publications, underground presses and handprinted tracts, as rodger says, but those sort of things just don’t carry much authority anymore. The general public demands mass media to confer authority. As someone who’s done a lot of work with alternative presses I still have to concede that the day of small, local print pubs has passed; there’s just no money to keep them printing. And while we may care about local issues, not enough people care to keep a quality local publication doing good work covering local politics, events and social issues.
    The average Angeleno doesn’t notice anything happening to the LA Times because s/he very rarely even picks up a paper.

  15. “The average Angeleno doesn’t notice anything happening to the LA Times because s/he very rarely even picks up a paper.”

    Lucinda, sorry, but that seems like a very broad generalization–do you have any statistics or qualifications for that statement. How are you defining “average Angeleno”?

  16. Found at stateofthenewsmedia.org:

    “Different surveys come up with slightly different numbers for how often people read newspapers. The broadest measure, which the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has used, asks if a person reads a newspaper “regularly” without specifying weekday or Sunday and found 63% in 2002. Pew also has a survey question it has used for several years that asks if people read a newspaper “yesterday” and found in 2002 41%. Scarborough Research asks whether people read a newspaper “in an average week” and finds the numbers we used above. As this number comes closest to household penetration and sits between the two other ways of asking the question, it seems the safest number to use.”

    Here’s a good article, from Pew:
    http://people-press.org/report/282/online-papers-modestly-boost-newspaper-readership

    According to that article, In 2006 “Four-in-ten Americans say they read a newspaper yesterday, with 6% reading a newspaper online ­ 4% read both a print and online newspaper, while 2% read it only online. In addition, 3% say they read something on a local or national newspaper website yesterday. As a result, even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership ­( 43% for both print and online readers)­ is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50%).”

  17. 10 percent from a paper copy of a newspaper–chances are that a great deal of the nearly 50 percent of people cited in that study that get news from the web are looking at a newspaper’s website. There’s still some life for newspapers.

    It doesn’t hurt to remember that a lot of newspapers turn profits. It’s just that many are part of larger conglomerates, or they’re operating with expectations of ever-increasing profits, or their owners have saddled them with unworkable amounts of debt (coughZellcough).

    How does the NYT’s Manhattan circulation figures compare to the LAT’s in LA County?

    Matt Yglesias quoted a bit of a Steve Coll blog post of what the Washington Post could look like if it was an endowed nonprofit, and argues with that and talks about the challenges facing newspapers:
    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/01/newspapers_without_profits.php

    It’s worth a read.

  18. Excellent points raised by all. Taking your cynicism under due consideration, LM, I still hold out hope for a resurgence of small local presses but that’s one of the publishing sectors that I am actively involved in so of course I’m bound to be a bit of a Pollyanna about it.

  19. I don’t know if I would go comparing LAT circulation to Manhattan. Remember, those people are reading the news on the way to work… on the subway.

    Also.. with regards to a “return to the so-called underground presses of the 1970s”… it is already happening. ON THE INTERNET.

    Hang on to print all you want. But, with reduced coverage, increased costs to subscribers, and more and more citizens turning to instant news via hand-held device, the newspaper is starting to look like an 8-track tape.

  20. “I don’t know if I would go comparing LAT circulation to Manhattan. Remember, those people are reading the news on the way to work… on the subway.”

    No, I was trying to compare the LAT’s circ favorably with the NYT. The NYT has a circulation of just a little more than 1 million daily. That includes their national edition–going by some 2007 numbers, their NYC market circulation is 600,000. Now, that’s lower than the LA Times, and as you said, in a city much more favorable to newspaper reading because of the much larger number of mass transit riders.

    Really, the fact that the LAT has a circulation of 800,000 is very impressive–undoubtedly that will continue to decline, but in many respects it’s still viable. Too bad it’s hampered with the management it has.

  21. In LA 40% of the population are born from outside the country. More than 70% are people of color, but if you read the LA Times you would never know that. The average person doesn’t read the LA Times, because we were sick of our neighborhoods and people who looked like us being patronized and demonized in the paper. Also sick of human interest stories that centered mainly around the same circle jerk group of people who went to school with or dated or went to the same parties of reporters.

    That LA Times was a party for the aspiring upper middle class Westsider/Valley type of person and that person is a very small demographic in LA.

    The LA Times died, because from my view even before the internet it failed to cover the majority. It failed to cover the average person. It failed to report the news fairly and objectively.

    And when the internet came it made the paper even more irrelevant to the vast majority of the people who are in the City of LA proper.

    The LA Times never covered our events. Never covered anything in our neighborhoods (unless someone got shot), never thought the rest of the city was human and so it like all of the other institutions (The Republican Party) that refuse to recognize the changing demographics of the city and the world will die.

    Good riddance to the LA Times, it never told me anything that I couldn’t get in the New York Times nationally, the Economist internationally or I didn’t already know locally.

    Browne

  22. As the pictures get bigger the copy gets smaller….Think of all the trees that they are saving….Maybe the L.A Times is trying to go “Green”

    Hap

  23. William,

    I’m under the same belief that Times management is doing everything possible to push away readers of the print version of the newspaper, and migrate to an online version only.

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