Sunday, October 8, 2017
The LA Times In Decline
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, I remember the Los Angeles Times as a paragon of modern journalism. It featured Pulitzer prize winning journalists, crack investigative reporting, and accurate detailing of recent news events.
Over the last two decades, the quality of the Times has precipitously declined. The paper seems thinner every time I pick it up. It has become more dominated by advertisements than ever, including the recent and particularly annoying addition of tough-to-remove-stickers—usually blocking block headlines—hocking one item or another.
Last Sunday, though, it descended to new depths of hell.
The front page of the October 1st edition, sporting its usual 11 inches of width, devoted the center 7 inches to a description of a podcast entitled Dirty John.
Last Monday, October 2nd, the paper devoted yet another 7 inches, leaving only one column of 3 inches on the front page. The story there, entitled California’s Pot Surplus Vexes States, when added to the Dirty John story, covers the entire top half of the front page of the paper.
By Wednesday, the editors had thankfully dropped the Dirty John story to the bottom half of the front page, only to move it up again last Thursday. Then, this morning, it again fills up more than half the top part of the front page.
The Tronc company, a firm owning the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and other daily newspapers, also—shockingly—owns the six-part podcast series, Dirty John.
In other words, the LA Times is using its previously serious news platform to advertise for.. well… ITSELF!
Davan Maharaj, editor in chief and publisher of the LA Times, said,
When we read Christopher’s last piece, and saw it become one of the most read pieces on our site last year, we now consider that a missed opportunity. It was made for podcasts.
I wonder about the chicken-and-egg problem with journalism these days.
Do journalists report the news, or do they make it?
Am I about to join Trump with his allegations of false news?
However, I feel compelled to shout about the problem.
Thomas Jefferson said democracy can only work with a well-informed public.
The Times no longer informs us.
It sells us.
And, worse, it sells us product it owns.
Last May, the Board of the Chicago based Tronc corporation faced trouble as two of its Board members tried to purchase more shares of the company. Billionaire investors Soon-Shiong and Ferro have been steadily buying up shares of the parent company, jockeying for control of it and its editorial content.
I suppose their presence on the Board is slightly preferable to Donald Trump.
Perhaps only slightly so.
We all know about Trump now. With him, we would expect nothing other than self-serving, yellow journalism. But now we see clear evidence that, more than even being yellow, it offers only thinly-veiled advertising.
I propose you use the LA Times for lining your bird cages, starting hearth-fires now that winter is coming, or wrapping up any fish you happen to catch.
Sadly, it also represents the trend occurring in print, online and broadcast journalism these days:
Print what sells.
Advertise for your own products.
Forget about the truth.
Just this past week, while LA Times managers shamelessly promoted their own media product, here are just some of the absent from the front page:
The scary situation in North Korea.
The instability in the Trump administration.
The tragedies in Puerto Rico, Mexico City, and much of the Caribbean.
The wars raging in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere in the middle east.
Please trash your LA Times subscription.
For print, I suggest The Economist.
For broadcast news, check out the BBC or PBS’ The Nightly News Hour.
While you continue to search for truth in the outback of contemporary journalism, please join me in mourning the loss of the Los Angeles Times as anything other than a throwaway advertising paper—worth less than the paper on which it is printed.
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