Friday, June 08, 2007

Can The LA Times Be Saved?

Can The LA Times Be Saved?

That was the question posed at Tuesday night’s ZOCALO panel discussion – and the answer seemed to be – mostly, yes… if one listened to those work for the… LA Times.

And I tended to agree with them.

As for the members of the audience listening to the panel being able to be ‘saved’, I am far less optimistic.

The first thing I learned was that moderator, Kit Rachlis, Editor-in-Chief of Los Angeles Magazine has a quick and brilliant mind and that stand-up comedy lost a major star when he lowered his standards and went into journalism. He was a superb moderator and managed to out Satan, Satan himself when it came to being a Devil’s Advocate. Almost gleefully, he described the doomed financial model of the contemporary newspaper with his favored phrase being… death spiral... to describe the dramatic drops in both circulation and revenues affecting virtually all major newspapers.

The second thing I learned is that the older, largely white (though not all were white) baby boomers who attend such events, live on a different planet than I do. Besides constant complaints about the Times laying off seventy and eighty-year-old writers - the one thing they seemed to agree upon was that the Times should only pay attention to people who are exactly like… them; the educated elite assembled in that auditorium. Repeatedly, they stated they were the only audience in Los Angeles worth being catered to and the concept that the paper should try to reach out to 18 – 24 year olds was openly dismissed.

Their collective – and unchallenged by any speaker – arrogance was… breath taking. And there was no sense of irony attached, not even a hint of how totally detached they had become from the city around them or from the current state of newspapers in this country.

Still, with amazing restraint, the Times people managed to suggest there are other people in Los Angeles (both younger and less white) who might also deserve to have a paper written for them.

Even dismaying, no one there seemed able to understand that while a few years from now they will still be written printed newspapers – most people will be getting their news from the LA Times website. Nor could they understand how an unimaginable richness of highly local content and a multiplicity of different viewpoints custom designed for each individual reader will soon be able to be delivered to the citizens of Los Angeles after the new model of news gathering and news delivering finally develops.

The real golden age of journalism is about to begin, but no one in that auditorium could even understand the present day reality, much less the promise of the future.

1 comment:

Tim McGarry said...

Missed this one, unfortunately. My wish would be that the LAT could find a way to attract new, younger readers without alientating my fellow boomers in the process. The "new model" you mentioned hasn't been developed yet, leaving plenty of room for fear and concern over the future. There's no guarantee of a good outcome for journalism and consumers of news.