Patterico's Pontifications

7/7/2008

Patterico and Marc Cooper Debate the Future of the L.A. Times

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:10 am



It goes on all week. The link isn’t up yet, but keep checking here.

UPDATE: Here’s a direct link to Round One.

Round Two is here.

16 Responses to “Patterico and Marc Cooper Debate the Future of the L.A. Times”

  1. w00t! Can we kibitz?

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  2. Patterico,

    Can we get in a few kidney shots of our own?

    Too bad this will just be a relief valve for anger against the Times, but a lot of criticism of the Times could also be levelled at the Nation.

    PCD (5c49b0)

  3. Wow. Do you feel like you have multiple jobs now – your day job, your blogging, and all the perks (or baggage) that entails?

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  4. Excellent! Marc Cooper is one of the better left leaning thinkers around. And you are the go-to guy on LAT analysis.

    I hope you do a Bloggingheads-type podcast of it too.

    Patricia (f56a97)

  5. The L.A. Times:

    Mississippi, one of the nation’s most conservative states, has not elected a Democratic senator in a quarter-century. It has voted for Republican presidential candidates in the last seven elections.

    Uh…if that’s the case how did Bill Clinton win the state in 1992 and 1996?

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-senate6-2008jul06,0,1446447.story

    Timothy Watson (bd0fa4)

  6. Clinton lost Mississippi in 92 and 96.

    Bradley J. Fikes (faadd4)

  7. Hopefully Cooper isn’t one of those on the chopping block and gets to go the full rounds.

    PC14 (ec0516)

  8. Well done, Patrick. I score the first round for you.

    DRJ (d5bcc5)

  9. The last time anyone looked, The Times was churning out about an annual 20% profit

    20%?!? GOUGING! WINDFALL PROFITS TAX!

    If you want to really understand what’s going on at The Times, don’t bother reading any of the pontifications from professional journalism watchdogs.

    Translation: “Pay no attention to that pit bull about to tear me a new bodily orifice.”

    Drumwaster (5ccf59)

  10. 20 percent. Tax the holy hell out of those greedy capitalists !!!!!!

    JD (5f0e11)

  11. Yes, Patrick won round one. Even though Cooper’s argument is the same old “white man’s greed” complaint, the paper was losing subscribers long before Cooper took over, so Patrick’s argument sticks.

    What do you propose now, Marc, federal funding to save the Times?! (I shouldn’t put ideas into their heads.)

    Patricia (f56a97)

  12. Marc Cooper wrote,

    The last time anyone looked, The Times was churning out about an annual 20% profit — [snark snipped]. But that’s apparently just not enough for billionaire Tribune Co. Chief Executive Sam Zell.

    Later,

    A recession-driven slump in advertising and a continuing falloff in daily circulation are immediately jeopardizing service on the billions of dollars in leveraged debt he accumulated when he took over Tribune…

    Even without looking at the LAT’s books, I’ll wager that Cooper doesn’t know what he’s talking about in that “churning out a 20% profit” quip. Or worse, that he does. By common usage, “20% profit” means that for every dollar of revenue, expenses total only 80 cents, leaving 20 cents as earnings to be distributed as dividends, or used to buy back shares, acquire other companies, or invest into new businesses. Is that what Cooper is claiming for the LAT?

    I didn’t think so.

    By the way (surprise!), paying back borrowed money (“[servicing] billions of dollars in leveraged debt”) is one of the activities that the business has to take into account. If Cooper were a landlord, perhaps he’d figure his monthly expenses for taxes and maintenance at $80, then charge $100/month in rent so he could talk about his 20% “profit.” You mean that I have to service the mortgage that I took out to buy that property?!

    If Zell is such a maroon or such a tightwad that he’s strangling this goose-that’s-laying-the-20%-profit-egg, then surely Cooper can point to the numerous wisely-managed big-city dailies that are comfortably in the black.

    [crickets chirping]

    Would that Cooper’s fantasy were true, and that the LAT’s problems could be solved by rustling up a decently-greedy (and presumably Leftist) billionare to replace the rapacious one that the LAT’s former owners actually landed. Good luck with that; too bad that Bill, Melinda, and Warren have already picked out their own favorite charity.

    For some insight into the actual problems that the Internet poses to the business models of actual papers, check out Mark Bowden’s account of Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of the Wall Street Journal. No picnic there for any of the parties involved. And unlike the LAT, the WSJ’s core operations actually do generate earnings.

    The harsh financial realities of 21st century newspapering also mean that addressing the glaring journalistic shortcomings highlighted by Patrick Frey won’t save the paper, either. Perhaps necessary, but not sufficient. But then again, a review of The First Law of Holes illustrates why Frey has won Round One over Marc “Dig Faster!” Cooper.

    AMac (f24cd7)

  13. Here’s my favorite comment from Round One of the LA Times’ DustUp:

    “As a former subscriber (the only demo actually growing for the Times anymore), I can tell you I left for one reason: I don’t trust the Los Angeles Times anymore. With great regularity, they confirm that I made the right decision for the right reason. It’s that simple.

    Submitted by: william”

    DRJ (d5bcc5)

  14. The only place I can that repeats the ‘20% profit’ figure is Wikipedia’s unsupported statement that the LA Times had operating profits of 20% prior to 2005.

    DRJ (d5bcc5)

  15. “Operating profits” leave out interest payments and some other expenses. In some cases, operating profits and overall profits are almost the same, while they are quite different in others. Since we know that Zell took out lots of debt, they’re very likely to be different for the LA Times.

    AMac (c822c9)


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