Question Meme of the Week: How Would You Run the L.A. Times?

Lobby at the L.A. TimesI have this theory that is contrary to all the bloviating about how the bad management is responsible for plummeting subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times.

In short, it’s really the multimedia that is keeping people from needing to read the newspaper. Your average joe doesn’t give a crap about who’s editing the editorial pages so much as that you can get reader specific news 24/7, for free, by way of the internet, and breaking news any time by watching CNN or Fox.

Yes, this argument is obvious, but still pretty much ignored by every other blogger who has an opinion on what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Times.

All that said, it doesn’t mean that our local paper can’t be improved and critiqued. Which of course is the subject of the question of the week:

If you were suddenly appointed an all powering helm of the L.A. Times, how would you manage it? Who would you hire to manage the different sections? Any other fundamental changes?

Feel free to comment below, or leave a lengthier reply on your own blog (just drop us a note in the comments so we know to check). And in grand meme form, I’m tagging some local bloggers in hopes they’ll reply: L.A. City Nerd, Michael “Mayor Sam” Higby, and Zach Behrens of LAist. (I would have also tagged Amy Alkon, but she’s already given her opinion on the subject.)

photo of the LA Times lobby by Mister-E, used with permission

9 thoughts on “Question Meme of the Week: How Would You Run the L.A. Times?”

  1. 1 – embrace the digital age. (which the times seems to be doing… check out paper news is no longer mainstream, and is viewed as inefficient to the younger, tech-savvy crowds. migrate the business model towards the web to accomodate this.

    2 – embrace local content. readers, by and large, no longer tune into newspapers and their websites for up-to-the-minute world or national news. they look for local events, travel info, news that impacts them and their communities more directly. newspapers are perfectly poised to feed into this. provide commentary and community to the local audience and you will win them over to your site and your paper. provide a network for them, even a fully featured blogspace for them to contribute to coverage of local news and events, and you’ll keep them. let them invest some effort in the news. after all, they keep going to myspace in no small part because of the effort they invest in their profiles there.

  2. 1 – No gimmicks. Redesigns, “guest editorial page editors” (glad that one died a quick death)…the Times likes to think of itself as one of America’s best papers. Start acting like it.

    2 – Hire Nikki Finke.

    3 – Redesign the website. It’s still awful. I think they’re trying to get people to be sure to buy the paper version by how poorly organized the website is.

    But no suggestions will matter as long as the paper is expected to return a 20% profit and forced to cut back. Ownership is the thing that needs to be solved in the here and now, not the paper itself.

  3. Johan: I agree entirely with #2, embracing local content.

    I also think the Times should spend less money on paying for AP feeds and more on original investigative journalism. Let blogs handle the brief short blips, but reserve funding for the deeper analysis and digging. I prefer to read longer articles offline, so reserve some content exclusively for the paper, at least for a couple days.

    Financially, they should take lessons from the web and apply them back to the paper, such as placing AdWords inspired ads on the front page – possibly reserving 1.5″ of the the right column for premium classified ads. If possible, allow these ads to be targeted to whatever neighborhood the papers are being distributed.

    Editorial wise, I’d rotate editors and frequently allow dueling pages opposite of one another, allowing for right wing vs. left wing points of view.

    Occasionally hire the Times most vocal critics to offer counterpoints in the newspaper to various topics.

    Also, feature more tangible inserts – such as maps, full page calendars, and other city guides, ala National Geographic pull outs, to make an actual need for people to get ahold of the newspaper besides the crossword puzzle.

  4. To the LA Times staff (just in case they are following this blog): Ok my take, the PC and DirectTV and other multimedia available 24/7 are where we get much of our daily news bits. But they grew because the newspapers were already failing their duty to society.

    I do miss not having a paper where I can really read in depth the issues of the day. You can’t get the detail in sound bites or even 2 minute clips needed to make decisions.

    My 3 things to fix our big papers

    1. Avoid the “sensational” and urge to increase readership with half baked stories ala The Enquirer and other tabloids. Its only a short term gain in readership.

    2. Report the facts, just the facts and let us decide where we should stand on an issue. Don’t assume your position is right and then tilt the reporting to corral us into your corner. How studpid do you think the average intelligence is really? Keep the news and editorial sections seperate and clearly defined.

    3. Increase the coverage of local events and activities. Take a look at the stuff here and the art blogging LA site for some guidance on how to inform us on local things to see and do.

    EVAN hit the nail on the head…money, its what drives a corporation. Until they quit pandering to the quick buck things won’t change.

  5. Um…we are being watched so its only good. According the sitemeter on my blog, someone at the LATimes domain jumped from this blog to my personal blog. Will they take what we have to say seriously or will it be written off as the blither blather of a bunch of geeks?

  6. After the Tribune Company purchased the Times Mirror in June of 2000 circulation has slipped from over one million daily newspapers to 775,000 copies per day. Many point the finger at the Internet, for the loss of readers, but the Internet is not wholly to blame.

    When the Times published a story regarding Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s alleged groping of women, right before the election, readers saw through the story and cancelled their subscriptions in record numbers.

    After the no-call law was enacted the Times had no way to control the churn, where readers would cancel the newspaper, and others would subscribe from a staff of telemarketers.

    The departures of many talented writers and editors has not helped one bit, the Times needs to retain and recruit additional talent, maybe after the sale of the Tribune Company the newspaper will trend in this direction.

    The recurring subject I hear often is the lack of local news in the Times, so many subscribe to the newspapers that cover the area where they reside, I read the San Gabriel Valley Tribune for local news regarding San Dimas.

    I’m happy to see the Times finally catching up with the twenty first century and enhancing the blogs and adding MyLATimes, it’s a move in the right direction.

    With online advertising revenue expected to match the hardcopy revenue in ten years, newspapers will still be around for several years to come.

  7. They should hire those Metrobloging guys to come in and remind them what local news is supposed to be about as well as how work *with* online communities.

  8. The new entity must absolutely be free of City Hall influence. This is why The Daily News will always have it over the times: it isn’t afraid to criticize city hall.

    Also, the op-ed section at the Times is something of a joke. Have you read Erin Aubry Kaplan? Take a look at the titles & subjects of her articles.

    The Times may be the largest paper in the area, but it is an aging, rotting carcass. PROOF: See how much sharper the Daily News commentaries are about city hall and compare them to the Times. Case closed.

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