"Los Angeles will be one of the places where we’ll eventually find out
whether newspaper journalism’s current distress is a birth pang or a
death rattle." — Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times
I didn’t read the news today – oh boy.
I didn’t read it yesterday, either, or the day before that. Well, not exactly – I read the news online, I listened to the news on the radio, I watched Anderson Cooper on CNN and I clicked on my mobile phone news ticker. But I didn’t read The Paper – what has served as the “news” for all of my adult life.
My “paper” is the Los Angeles Times. Even when I was in journalism school in Missouri I read The Times, despite the news always being a few days old (no Internet back then, in case you are wondering.) I couldn’t live without the Sunday Calendar section, Jim Murray’s sports columns or the special section coverage of the Academy Awards. And the national and international news was always on par or better than that "other" Times in New York.
I kept reading, every day, through countless design and generational changes. But over the past few years, since The Tribune Company bought The Times from the Chandler family, my habits changed.
It would be easy to blame the Internet, blogs, Craig’s List or citizen journalism for why my newspapers now go into the recycle bin unopened. It would be convenient to say life moves too fast, or information moves to fast, or that there are too many other demands for my news attention.
It would be easy, yes – and it would be wrong.
The powers at Tribune HQ would love me to say it’s the Internet’s fault, as that would justify their staff reductions at The Times from 1200 to 940 reporters in six years, and from 5,300 to 2,800 among other workers in that same time period. It would justify their firing of publisher Jeffrey Johnson, who refused to cut the newsroom staff any further.
But the truth is, I no longer read The Times because it is no longer a good newspaper. This fact has nothing to do with the Digital Age – and everything to do with Tribune’s dispassionate disposition toward journalism.
Theirs is a journalism of the boardroom, not the newsroom. The Los Angeles Times could have chosen the path of The Washington Post or New York Times, papers that are moving forward and reinventing themselves while maintaining the highest of journalistic standards. Instead, Tribune took the road to ruin, believing that less journalism would somehow equal higher profits.
Sorry, but journalism is your product, not the ink and paper on which the words and pictures are printed. And in Los Angeles, the product is broken.
I still love newspapers and there are plenty of great ones left. But my days with The Times are about over.
Without a commitment to journalism, I can no longer commit to The Times.
I didn’t change after all these years – The Times did. Now Tribune needs to change before it’s too late.