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.