The Incredible Shrinking Paper

A crazy owner and inept management are destroying a critically important  Southern California institution.  And I’m not talking about the Dodgers. 

Recent layoffs of veteran writers at the L.A. Times are not just symptoms of a declining newspaper business. The once-powerful daily has been run into the ground by Tribune Company’s Sam Zell, who acquired the property from the Chandlers.

The below-standard L.A. Times online version lets civic-minded residents keep track of regional affairs, while showcasing a few top-notch local journalists. But with the firing of 39-year reporter / editor / columnist Tim Rutten and other seasoned writers, the Times has plunged deeper into the abyss. 

When I got to town 30 years ago, the L.A. Times influence was extraordinary.  As a PR guy, I learned that getting coverage in that paper set up the whole news cycle. I watched as the Times singlehandedly tore down powerful local figures (remember former L.A. Coroner Thomas Noguchi)? 

Now L.A. Times investigations barely matter (did anyone read the recent five-part “expose´” on the Community College District construction program)? 

There’s talk about Tribune trying to unload the Times-Mirror Square building and of operational mergers with the Orange County Register.

But it looks as if this century-old powerhouse – which began as a virulent anti-union, jingoistic rag and was transformed into a nationally-recognized metropolitan daily – is now suffering its worst indignity:

Irrelevance.

This piece first appeared at LaborLou.com.

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