In today's Columbia Journalism Review (link courtesy of Romenesko), soon be to be former Editor of the Los Angeles Times John Carroll lists five reasons why the LA Times is losing readers faster than any other major newspaper in the country.
And guess what - content is not one of them! In fact, not a single one of the five reasons is anything he has control over!
Paul McLeary: One of the reasons the Los Angeles Times represents a puzzling -- even disturbing -- case study for the rest of us is the striking disparity between its journalistic performance (13 Pultizer prizes in five years) and its circulation performance (daily readership down 6.5 percent and Sunday readership down 7.9 percent in just the past 12 months). You must have felt at times like the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena, yet every time he looks up at the bleachers, people are filing out the exits. As the guy who lived that paradox, do you have any insights into it to share?
John Carroll: I believe content had nothing to do with the circulation decline; if anything, the decline was mitigated by our content. Where does the blame lie? The list is long: 1. The scandal at Newsday, which prompted both our internal auditors and the Audit Bureau of Circulation to disallow certain types of sales that were previously considered legitimate. 2. The advent of the "do not call" list, which stymied our phone sales. 3. The reduction of the newspaper's cost base by more than $130 million annually, which cut the strength of marketing and promotion efforts, among others. 4. Issues on the business side that recently prompted the appointment of new directors of circulation and marketing. 5. And, of course, increased competition for readers' time. That's only a partial list.
Well, talk about the ultimate softball question! I mean, "...the gladiator who keeps vanquishing foes in the arena..." Excuse me while I visit my local vomitorium....
OK - that feels much better.
Nothing like a hard hitting journalist who asks the tough questions!
And, of course, no where in the interview is the subject even broached that the rapid decline in local content and the purging of Los Angeles voices from the paper might have anything to do with local readers fleeing in droves from the paper. Now the writer does bring up Mickey Kaus' complaint about the paper's increasingly stiff, East Coast writing style, but the concept that content might actually mean something to the readers of the LA Times, is completely ignored.
UPDATE! LAObserved also addresses the content, we don't need no stinkin' content claim.