Patterico's Pontifications

10/23/2006

Suggestion for L.A. Times Editors: A Column from the Readers’ Representative

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:57 am

The L.A. Times has been looking for ways to improve its content and re-engage the reader.

How about giving the Readers’ Representative a column?

I was reminded of this idea upon reading NYT ombudsman Byron Calame’s column from yesterday, in which he said that he now believes the New York Times should not have published the Swift terrorist finance tracking story. While I was very disappointed that Calame’s change of heart came four months late and buried deep in his column, at least it appeared in the pages of the paper, and that’s worth something.

If memory serves, there used to be a column from the Readers’ Representative at the L.A. Times. It seems like it appeared only rarely (once a week? once a month?) and was short-lived. I wonder why.

I think people would like to hear how reader complaints are being handled at the paper. Right now, I think the issue of how the L.A. Times handles reader complaints sometimes gets more publicity through this web site than through the pages of its own paper.

That doesn’t make sense to me.

I have suggested that the paper make a direct connection to readers through comments and trackbacks. That’s the best way to re-engage the reader.

But failing that, why not make public some commentary from the person the editors have designated to be their liaison to the public?

23 Responses to “Suggestion for L.A. Times Editors: A Column from the Readers’ Representative”

  1. […] UPDATE x2: Calame’s column gives me an idea for the editors of the L.A. Times. More on that here. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Byron Calame Should Resign (421107)

  2. It sounds like first Mr. P wants Calame to resign, now he wants Calame to write a column. Isn’t this contradictory?

    [The post is about the LAT. I want every paper to employ a tough and fair public editor who writes a column. No contradiction. — P]

    dchamil (278ce2)

  3. Re # 2–Mr. Calame is at the New York Times–Patterico was talking about the reader’s representative at the Los Angeles Times–dchamil’s confusion is understandable since it’s usually difficult to distinguish between the editorial policies at the two newspapers.

    Over the weekend, and in this morning’s edition, the Los Angeles Times made numerous changes to its “look”; the editorial pages today consisted largely of explanations of “who we are” and “what we’re about”.

    The total effect smacked of desperation and of putting lipstick on a pig. It’s more of the same old same old. It’s nice that they’re trying, but with that newsroom and editorial staff, they’re like the USC football teams of the 1960’s where, with their great running backs, every play was “Student Body Left”. So it goes with the Times–if they were leaning any further left, they’d fall on their faces.

    Mike Myers (af249e)

  4. The LA Times does not want to connect to its readers. Like most liberals, it is elitist and considers the public to be a tool, while its primary objective is impressing the Pulitzer jury. Only tabloids (shudder) actually connect to the masses.
    What the LAT is really trying to do is what the Calame article’s primary topic was: finding a way to sell enough entertainment to support the true and noble journalism which is beyond the appreciation of the general public.

    great unknown (71415b)

  5. So it goes with the Times–if they were leaning any further left, they’d fall on their faces. – Mike Myers

    Yada yada.

    Newspapers no longer attract 34-64’s, period. Right, left or middle. Advertisers pay to reach the ones buying houses, having children, worrying about schools, building their careers, running for office, becoming leaders in their communities. Young people are not acquiring the news consumption habits at the same rate in their 20s as earlier generations.

    A quarter-century trend is not going to be slowed by a Reader’s Representative column picking over carcasses of old articles.

    steve (3e5902)

  6. It seems to me it wasn’t so long ago that there was a reader’s rep column at the LAT. Didn’t that dissolve in the aftermath of their mishandling of the Arnold escapades during the recall election?

    Hmm, I could be wrong, but I was sure I remember someone acting in that capacity having to weekly backpedal and explain all of the Times’ hypocrisy in attacking Arnold, instead of honestly reporting news.

    Freelancer (f99e36)

  7. Patterico, this is a little off topic, but do you hate FOX News like you hate the L.A. Times?

    [The only programs I watch with any regularity are Special Report with Brit Hume, which is excellent, and Fox New Sunday, hosted by that Democrat Chris Wallace, which is also very good. The rest of it strikes me as annoying in the extreme. How do you feel about the L.A. Times? — P]

    Leviticus (3c2c59)

  8. The WaPo uses technorati and lists trackbacks. It tends, however, to draw lots of “progressive” trolls to one’s blog.

    rightwingprof (5649f5)

  9. Who the devil are you talking about, rightwingprof?

    Leviticus (3c2c59)

  10. Leviticus,

    Do you hate the LA Times like you hate Fox News ?

    Desert Rat (ee9fe2)

  11. Agree — a reader’s rep column in the LAT would be a good thing.

    Tim McGarry (798820)

  12. I don’t hate Fox News, Desert Rat.

    I think that it’s a business selling product to a niche market, just like the LA Times. If you don’t like the content, don’t buy the product, but don’t hold basic business against basic businessmen. I don’t.
    You have plenty of alternatives through the miracle of free enterprise. Use them.

    I’ve talked about this in other posts where Patterico whines about the LA Times.

    Leviticus (e87aad)

  13. WaPo = Washington Post

    rightwingprof (5649f5)

  14. Ya don’t say….

    Who are you referring to as a troll?

    Leviticus (e87aad)

  15. Leviticus, there are some of us who remember the LA Times when it was readable by subscribers who didn’t agree with its editorial policy. I gave up in 2003. Ten years ago they had a “Left” and “Right” column and political opinion was pretty clearly labeled as such.

    I realize that the Internet has made daily papers obsolescent but they do have assets that could be transferred to new ways of doing business. Peter Drucker used to ask clients, “What business are you in ?” That is not always obvious.

    If it is entertainment, then niche marketing, as you suggest, is a valid plan. If they aspire to more, they need to analyze why they are driving away long term customers. A reader representative might be an effective way of looking for feedback. Maybe they could go back to labeled political op-ed and try to be neutral in news columns. Maybe it’s too late to regain the middle. If they wanted to try, this would be a good time, while there was something left to save.

    Mike K (6d4fc3)

  16. My memory of the one time ability to read the Times if you didn’t agree with its editorial policy is like Mike K’s–once upon a time you could do that. According to some recollections there was a time before the 1960’s when the Chandlers relentlessly pushed a hard right, local boosterism version of the news in the Times. There are still places all over the world and in the USA where the local paper is in the pocket of one party or political faction or another.

    But the Los Angeles Times purports to be more than just a local paper. Its editors have visions of Pulitzer Prize Grandeur and being a newspaper that “matters”—a sort of New York Times envy.

    In their drive to be a newspaper that matters, the editors/publishers long ago lost any control over keeping the news pages separate from the editorial pages. Editorials are supposed to contain opinion-supposition–and argument. But when the so called reporter’s biases, opinions and suggestions are blatantly apparent in what is supposed to be an LA Times news story, the reader subscriber has to take on the burden of sorting bushels of editorial chaff from a cupful of news kernels. Many of us have given up the task. Of course the good news in all of this is that,with the paper’s “New Look”, one need read only the headlines to get the LA Times party line for the day. For serious news, one goes elsewhere.

    Mike Myers (af249e)

  17. Mike K, doesn’t that analogy require that the L.A. Times lose the pretense of being a source of journalism and instead one of punditry?

    I mean, you cannot claim they are selling a niche product if they are calling it a very non-niche product.

    OHNOES (b494da)

  18. Once upon a time, (back in Joseph Farah’s print days), there were the L.A. Times, and the Herald Examiner. As with most major cities, there were two significant papers. One leaned left, the other right.

    They kept their editorializing on the pages dedicated to such, and kept the news pages to hard news. And they had each other to keep them honest about it. And a great number of the citizenry read both to make sure they got a full read on the big stories, and both sides of the political commentary. If one paper stepped over an ethical line, readers knew it from the other paper quickly.

    Most big cities have long since seen the right-leaning paper vanish. With only one game in town, the remaining papers no longer feel the pressure of a competitor looking over their shoulder, and integrity suffers.

    Freelancer (cb897a)

  19. “I mean, you cannot claim they are selling a niche product if they are calling it a very non-niche product.

    Comment by OHNOES”

    I wasn’t the one to pose the niche market question. There is, for example, a difference between the NY Times book section and the NY Review of Books. I actually used to subscribe to the NY Review but it finally got too much. I used to get a kick out of the personals in the back section. One was from a woman in her 50s looking for a man from 50 to 65, a category I fit. Except her ad ended with “No Republicans” !

    Well, that let me out. It also probably let out more than 50% of the straight men over 50 in the USA but she didn’t care. Better alone than with a damned Republican.

    Not too long after that, I let my subscription lapse.

    The LA Times is like that woman. It may mean oblivion but “no Republicans” is our battle cry !

    Mike K (416363)

  20. Weekly reading of the “Public Editor” column at my local Tribune Co. paper, the Baltimore Sun, makes me wonder if Patterico will be very pleased if he gets his wish with The Sun’s Trib sib.

    Most of the P.E.’s articles could run under the title, “Why the Sun was Right After All, and It’s a Darn Good Paper, Y’Know.” That gets a bit old, even though the subjects under discussion are so refreshingly new and different each Sunday.

    On the other hand, I picked up last Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, where Reader Rep Ted Diadun devoted his column to the phenomenon that longtime Patterico readers know as “After the Jump,” as it applies to that paper’s election coverage. It was an interesting and informative read, even for an out of towner. Suggesting that a managment committed to pulling off the Readers’ Rep stunt can indeed do it.

    AMac (086cf1)

  21. D’OH! I meant Leviticus, not Mike K! >_

    OHNOES (b494da)

  22. The rare times I’ve read the blog from the HoustonChronicle’s PE, it seemed like very few people had problems with their coverage. I guest that means they’re just a good paper, or something.

    As for JaimeGold, I sent him/her an email a few years ago after they did an article which featured a quote from ArmandoNavarro (tinyurl.com/msdxo) without mentioning his extremist views. I included a URL to a page at americanpatrol.com, and Jaime wrote back informing me that the great and glorious Los Angeles Times doesn’t rely on such sources for research.

    The punch line cometh: the URL I sent basically consisted of just four links, and those were all to newspaper articles. Three of them were to pe.com or sbsun.com, and the fourth was to… latimes.com.

    IOW, this column would only make sense if either JaimeGold were replaced, or the LAT took on an additional public editor to respond to complaints made about JaimeGold’s column. (That process could repeat almost infinitely, until the LAT exhausted all memory and was forced to shut down.)

    Submit ToughQuestions For Politicians (05c6a0)

  23. Since you don’t get the Times delivered anymore, you might not have seen the latest act of reader disregard from the Times. They’ve managed to make the paper visually ugly with an ill-considered font change. See Tuesday’s letters section for the printable responses to the change.

    “Ransom note” is pretty accurate.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)


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