LA Times print cutbacks AGAIN

In the Dark Age of Zell, you hold onto the hope that the rot won’t creep.

I’ve tried to stick by the LA Times during my five years in Los Angeles, because, mainly, what else have I got? (No, the answer is not this or any other LA blog.) So far I’ve succeeded. I still get daily delivery of the print edition because that’s how I like my first dose of news in the morning.

Always a fan of the tactile experience of newsprint, it provides an effective filtering device as my eyes dart around the page. From headlines to articles that I begin to read, then skim and finally abandon as my eyes dart to the left or right and glance at an ad that all of a sudden seems more interesting, then back again to the last paragraph or maybe to another headline or article, it’s my brain’s process for sorting through information that is poorly mimicked by internet search engines. Some may recognize this as ADD but it’s not, really. I am my own Google.

I’ve stood by, fumed and adjusted as the print LAT has been chipped away and shaved down to reflect corporate overlords’ profit/loss projections. Maybe I don’t really need a TV guide, Sunday magazine, book review, opinion section, weekend guide and a slew of their best writers, all cast aside in the last few years during the Dark Age of Zell.

Apparently I still need many, many advice columns, horoscopes, comics, celebrity real estate coverage, willy-nilly movement of sections to different days of the week for undecipherable reasons and numerous little reminders that there is stuff in the online version that’s not in print. Aside from a rare glance at two or three of their “blogs” (I’ll play nice and use their term here and not, say, “online articles,”) I’ve never given much of it a look. Once I’ve read the print edition, that completes my daily LAT experience.

Still, LAT has topnotch hard news writers, but lately, whenever I read their stories, I wonder if their days are numbered too. It’s like watching a sick plant die, one leaf at a time. You hold onto the hope that the rot won’t creep; you enjoy the greenery while you can.

I hear the numbers are dwindling for readers of my ilk. I read of people canceling long running subscriptions. Not on my street, though, where 2/3 of my neighbors have a paper laying in their driveways as I head out on an early morning walk for a coffee. Maybe it’s a Silver Lake anomaly.

Today, I am making the adjustment to the newly killed-off The Guide (previously Weekend) as a separate Thursday print section. It’s been castrated down to a few half-pages in Calendar but truth be told, although it started out strongly, it became ball-less months ago, as well as a bit self-consciously sour and contrarian too. And, at times, just plainly poorly written.

Some personal peeves, more whining and accolades

*One of LAT‘s chief arts critics, a fairly recent arrival, is someone who’s every word I used to hang onto during that writer’s prior tenure at east coast print institutions. Now the bulk of her writing amounts to a running “think piece” on the cultural significance, or lack thereof, of a phenomenally popular low brow TV circus. If I could stomach watching it, and I’ve tried and I can’t, then I might care. Maybe, during her time between the east coast and LA, the Seattle rains diluted the adroit acumen that was the essence of her prose. (And perhaps I should work on my cliche usage when I’m criticizing other writers.)

*The Smart List isn’t.

*The cut-to-monthly Sunday LAT Magazine (previously West, previously LAT Magazine – see a desperate pattern here?) now fancies itself a “lifestyle” publication, which we all know receives scant coverage elsewhere in media. Why don’t they just bite the bullet, accept Botox and cosmetic surgery ads, re-title it LA Spa Times and embrace being a plastic magazine for the plastic crowd? It’s pretty sad when you’re less interesting than Parade or a flyer from Target.

*The Envelope, a section with smart, funny, passionate writers that cover the TV and film business from the inside, is a good read even for those of us not of that world. That it’s a sporadic-and-not-weekly LAT print section in Los Angeles, the city of the mass entertainment industry, is a crime.

*Have they got Carina Chocano tied up and hidden in a cave somewhere and they only let her out when they have to?

*Is Meghan Daum really “on leave?” (She is, for a book! Still, I worry.) Why can’t Joel Stein have his own daily section? Can I be Patt Morrison’s new BFF?

*What else I like: Column One, the Business section, Robert Lloyd, George Skelton and the writers mentioned above. And The Image, dedicated to the oxymoron of LA style, is, in the words of the freshly dead The Guide, underrated.

There’s a saying that famous people die in threes. With the elimination of three (okay, two- and-a-half) sections this week — The Guide and, as of this coming Sunday, the recent Frankenstein graft of Book Review/Opinion — something similar could be applied to the LA Times.

Rot creeps.

8 Replies to “LA Times print cutbacks AGAIN”

  1. I gave up on them years ago.
    NYT for my daily dose of news. Hell they even scoop LAT with local stuff from time to time.

  2. frazgo, I know, I know — but I didn’t really want to go there. Ex-NYer here and it would be too easy. LAT is fixable, but also, obviously, killable too.

  3. I’m not an ex-NYer, but that doesn’t change that for better reporting and less bias it does a better job. Even they need balance so I check in on BBC to just to see how we look under a different microscope, one that isn’t directly involved in our messes.

  4. I never liked the Guide at all. The idea of the Thursday look ahead to the weekend started a while back–the Thursday Calendar section was printed like the Guide is now. It just seemed to be a weaker Weekly.

    And the Magazine is going back to weekly now (so instead of a monthly issue of advertising-run crap, we get it weekly!).

    I hate Zell as much as anyone, but really, the Times has been deteriorating ever since the sale to Tribune. Remember when the publisher was a cereal executive?

  5. I love the Times; I loved it when we had 2 papers (you youngsters are too little to remember the Herald Examiner- it was a great paper, too). A real paper makes a city. I don’t want to lose the Times.

  6. A few decades ago there usta be seven daily papers in L.A. The end of that era was right round the time that Paul Conrad’s great political cartoons were no longer in LAT. To be sure, I would not miss it were it to disappear. I can only imagine that the LA Weekly’s porn and DT News’ real estate would fill the gap in a fashion that would hardly be noticed as different to the real world. After all, did not Russ Stanton not state, while at the OC Press Club a fortnight ago, that he was “not sure. . . we’re one of them anymore” in answer to a query about LAT being among the “nation’s big papers”?

    And as a former New Yorker, I hafta state that that even in 2005, when last I lived in the city/outer boros, there were several new papers. Three I can name right off hand were am New York, the Sun and Metro. I still subscribe to the fantastic tab NY Observer, pick up the Times and Post at Famima (where I also get FT) and have daily delivered WSJ.

    I find LAT on the subway once or month or so and give it a cursory glance to take in its watered down and all too late perspective. It is rather sad what the Lummis and Chandler families have allowed this rag to become. Look how long it took the Bancrofts to sell their holdings, and observe the new publisher of the Washington Post.

  7. I don’t like how my fingers get all dirty from the news print.

    If these “corporate overlords” run the paper in such a way out of the goodness of their heart, then they will go out of business.

  8. I ain’t wanting the rags to “run a paper in a such a way out of the goodness of their heart.” I want a paper that is not fishwrap fashioned as an airport novel. Loads of rags from abroad dole it out rather well without all the lifestyle crap, why not LAT?

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