Patterico's Pontifications

1/30/2009

Holy Cow: Los Angeles Times Kills “California” Section

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:19 am

Kevin Roderick says the move leaves the paper without a separate local news section “for the first time since the paper’s early decades.”

The publisher decided to fold local news inside the front section — which will be reconfigured to downplay national and foreign news — despite what an official of the paper confirmed for me w[ere] the unanimous and vocal objections of senior editors. [Publisher] Hartenstein reportedly planned to delay an announcement until the close of business on Friday, fearing it will play as another black eye for the Times. He’s right about that.

The paper recently raised the price of an edition of the paper from 50 cents to 75 cents. Pay more, get less. How can you pass up that deal?

P.S. Roderick maintains:

By getting rid of California, the Times can print the more profitable Calendar section at night and eliminate the expense of a second, earlier daily press run. (Times presses can only handle four sections per run, as this post from last Friday discussed. . . .)

This fellow begs to differ, saying that L.A. Times pressrooms “produce six sections on every press run.” Me, I have no idea who’s right.

All I know is that the long-term trends for this paper are not good.

UPDATE: At the L.A. Times, the news is being reported on a blog — as a “Kevin Roderick reports” type of story. (Gee, we don’t know here, but Kevin Roderick tells us that our own paper is cutting the local section!) And the headline is “Hollywood papers struggle; L.A. paper loses local news section.” “L.A. paper,” eh? Which one would that be?

Pathetic. I guess the paper is being stubborn about saving the official announcement for the news black hole of Friday afternoon.

42 Responses to “Holy Cow: Los Angeles Times Kills “California” Section”

  1. Patterico:

    The paper recently raised the price of an edition of the paper from 50 cents to 75 cents. Pay more, get less. How can you pass up that deal?

    75 cents? 50 cents? Feh, I can remember all the way back to when the Los Angeles Times was a two-bit paper.

    Oh, wait…

    Dafydd

    Dafydd the Ne Plus Ultra (db2ea4)

  2. Kevin Roderick maintains:

    By getting rid of California . . . .

    I know that you guys have serious budget problems, but don’t you think this is a rather extreme solution?

    The Dana who ws born in California, but doesn't live there anymore (3e4784)

  3. Cutting your product while raising your prices…..

    These are super-geniuses we’re dealing with here.

    Techie (6b5d8d)

  4. Pay more, get less. How can you pass up that deal?

    Anyone who has been reading the editorial page for any length of time can’t be surprised by the utter puzzlement of economic principles shown by the LAT management. The person in charge of laying out the comics section would probably do a better job of managing the day-to-day operations.

    JVW (4ecab1)

  5. The New York Times did this not so long ago–got rid of its metro section. I think it’s trying to become the next USA Today.

    tim maguire (50b9b8)

  6. Back when I used to read dead tree newspapers, the Times lost a lot of Orange County readers when they cut the OC section and went to a California section. They gave up local news to print one section for the whole state. Before that change, they had printed local news sections for the major regions of greater LA.

    Before the change, the Orange County Register had been eating the Times’ lunch for years because they had better local coverage. Then the Times conceded the territory and went to the California section. Now, they have given that up. Unfortunately, the Register has gone the same way by dropping local coverage and relying on NY Times national stories.

    The Register readers are mostly not NY Times readers and are unlikely to accept the loss of local news without drifting away. I simply don’t understand this business plan.

    The rare Times local stories always had an agenda that was something ideological. For example, small cities have been under assault by these “public interest” law firms that are funded by developers. They sue the cities, accusing them of lacking “affordable housing.” The city tries to defend itself but the state keeps raising the requirements for affordable housing. There is a tie between developers (many of whom have now stopped projects mid-way in the process as the financial crash cleaned them out), politicians and these law firms. The Times was never interested in the POV of the local people. They were always on the side of the pols and the developers. That did not encourage local readers to subscribe.

    Anyway, this seems to be a death spiral that began years ago. They lost the local connections. Now local news blogs are appearing and taking the place of what a newspaper used to do. It’s too late for them to recover and they began the process years ago. I see little chance of them recovering.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. Well there are always those free papers that tell you what bands are coming to town and have the porn/escort ads on the last few pages.

    The Fourth Estate lives on.

    Joe (17aeff)

  8. More political cover for Obama. Today’s paper attacks the Republican Party for failing to agree on a stimulus plan of its own.

    At least we can agree that $330 million to prevent sexually transmitted disease is pure Democrat Party pork. It will only help Bill Clinton.

    Alta Bob (44f27c)

  9. The Baltimore Sun did the same thing a few months ago, “serving its readers better” by folding Metro (“B”) into the National (“A”) section. As the Sun is owned by the LAT’s parent, I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t a trial run.

    And it’s been a rousing success, except for readership, advertising, and depth and quality of news.

    AMac (c822c9)

  10. I think this is a terrible idea. The future of print newspapers is in local news, since most everyone is getting their national news online or on television. If the LA Times is trying to make themselves into a national newspaper, they’re going to have to work very hard to get off of the West Coast. I just don’t see them supplanting the NY Times or USA Today as the national paper of choice.

    tjwilliams (cb1b1c)

  11. I don’t live in the LAT’s circulation area, so this is a genuine question.

    If they’re going to fold the local news into the main section, and also downplay national and foreign news, what are they going to emphasize? What does a newspaper focus on if it reduces its coverage of local, national, and foreign news?

    Are they going to put the TV listings and comic strips on the front page or something?

    Joshua (9ede0e)

  12. well, someone has to (try) defend the LAT, so here goes…

    1 – Roderick doesn’t report the paper is cutting the amount of local coverage, just eliminating the separate section for that coverage, so other than readers and advertisers who for some reason want or need a separate section there shouldn’t be any negative falloff, at least for readers who want local news.

    2 – as for the ‘get less’ component of ‘pay more, get less’ quip, a lot of readers don’t read the news that is being cut so, for them, the ‘less’ part is irrelevant; readers aren’t going to get upset about not getting something they weren’t reading in the first place. And as an added bonus, since bias is found more in the national news coverage than local news, sports, features and so on, cutting back on the national news reduces the amount of bias remaining readers are exposed to, potentially reducing the exodus of readers upset over the biased coverage.

    3 – and for the ‘pay more’ component, pricing strategy dictates that, lacking the ability to dictate prices on a customer by customer basis, the price is set at the level that results in the highest revenue, realizing that, at a price of 50 cents, many readers value the paper at more than 50 cents, but no readers value the paper at less than 50 cents (if they did, they wouldn’t be readers). As the circulation has dropped, one can reasonably infer the losses are predominately among the readership who assigned the least value to the paper, with the result that the remaining readers are those willing to pay more than the previously set price. While a price hike might reduce further the numbers of marginally interested readers, there should be a bigger bump in revenues from retained readers.

    steve sturm (369bc6)

  13. tjwilliams and Mike K. have it exactly right. Losing local connections is fatal. The Times began foundering when its editors imported from the East Coast began competing with the NYT, a competition doomed to fail. When editors are obsessed with a “competitor” on the other side of the country and boasting about Pulitzers, they miss the pothole right in front of them.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  14. Hardly unexpected. They’ve cut both reporters and editors, leaving a smaller staff to fill the non-advertising space. They had to cut actual article or their article quality would have suffered! :)

    [snort!]

    The understanding Dana (3e4784)

  15. Well on the “less is more” front, this morning’s Los Angeles Times business section consisted of four–count ‘em 4—pages. Of course they didn’t have room to print another ridiculous Hiltzik column, nor any stock tables etc, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    The California section was skinny.

    But in the front section of the paper (page A4 for those unfortunate enough to subscribe to the LA Times) is a ridiculously photo shopped image entitled “Footnote to History”. The picture, attributed to Mahmud Saleh AFP/Getty Images purports to show “Officials in Tikrit, Iraq, unveil a bronze-colored shoe representing those thrown at President Bush last month during a news conference in Baghdad. The shoe-hurler, journalist Muntather Zaidi, is in jail pending the outcome of his trial.”

    Stock figures among the photoshopped crowd include laughing thumbs up woman [not likely to be an "official" in Tikrit] curious boy, etc. The bronzed shoe appears to be a baby shoe; there’s a photoshopped orange tree growing out of the shoe, and a white drape–under the shoe rather than being pulled off it etc.

    Now it’s convenient for the Los Angeles Times staff to post such a photo–but the credulity level to accept this piece of political pop art as authentic beggars description. Who the heck is minding the store down on Spring Street?

    Mike Myers (674050)

  16. Officials in Tikrit, Iraq, unveil a bronze-colored shoe representing those thrown at President Bush last month during a news conference in Baghdad.

    Oh, that’s Tikrit, is it? Saddam’s home turf. What a shock.

    Pablo (99243e)

  17. Since California is going bankrupt on February 1, the Los Angeles Times won’t be needing a California section any more.

    Official Internet Data Office (278536)

  18. Back when I have subscription to the Dog Trainer, the only thing I can really count on are the sports page and the Friday Fry’s Electronic Ad. I can get the Fry’s Ad online, and the Sports Page I can read online.

    I still remember when I was asked by the customer service rep from Dog Trainer why I want to discontinue my subscription, my reason above was what I give her. I really cannot trust anything outside of those 2 sections.

    BigFire (71927b)

  19. So no California section? No big deal. They moved the editorials to the front page news years ago.

    Tom (496827)

  20. The LA Times is going backwards when they should be going forwards. With the internet, blogs, and easy access to legitimate national papers, there is no need in So. Cal. for a second tier wannabe national newspaper. There probably is a demand for a paper with a strong local presence but the LAT is a non-entity in its own backyard, constantly getting scooped by the Register, the Daily News, LA Weekly and even the Washington Post. And this move will only make it worse.

    Sean P (e57269)

  21. Part of this actually seems to be a recognition that the L.A. Times can’t compete in national or international coverage in the print edition, because there are just too many other sites people can go to for the same coverage that is more current online than what can be offered in the print edition. The key to survival is to focus on coverage of your main circulation area, and report on things that receive only limited play at other online sites.

    The problem for the L.A. Times is that too many of the reporters and editors there don’t want to do it, and it’s a problem other major U.S. dailies also have. Their reporters think they’re destined and/or entitled to cover national or international news, and to earn the prestige that goes along with it. Dropping back to cover events in their core circulation area — even if you cover those events with a liberal spin — is like moving from Bel Air to East L.A. (or from Manhattan to Staten Island, if you’re on the other coast). It’s a major shot to their self-worth, and not why they’re in the business anymore.

    They don’t want to cover stories they see as either boring or beneath their pay grade, even if the only way they’re going to stay in business is to focus on those types of stories people will pay to read, because the information is unavailable elsewhere.

    John (692c5c)

  22. </iI think they should raise the price to $1.50 or perhaps $2.00 per issue and tell the readers that 5 cents of the price will go for planting trees.
    ( Al Gore approved green trees ) you know

    Jim (69a943)

  23. Anyone who can afford it is moving out of state anyway!

    Mossberg500 (9fd170)

  24. John, that does make a lot of sense actually.

    What’s interesting is that the OC Register (which overlaps LAT’s readership somewhat) appears to have taken the opposite approach. Their national division was never that big, but lately it seems all the national stories are straight from the AP wires. It irritates the local readers (since the OCR is supposed to be a conservative alternative to the LAT) but at least they’ve kept their local coverage, although it frankly could be better. I guess time will tell whether that was the better approach.

    And for the record, there is one other thing a daily newspaper offers — COUPONS. My wife is a hardcore clipper, and I have to admit the paper does pay for itself if you use it right.

    Sean P (e57269)

  25. Otis Chandler worked very hard to make the LAT into a national voice, with bureaus in the major news-making centers, plus international corespondent’s.
    Though he brought changes of outlook that leaned way too Left for some readers (Moi!), he was honest in his viewpoint, and courted competing voices on the OpEd pages.
    When he left the day-to-day of the paper, and brought in outside Publishers and Managing Editors, the paper become the NYT-lite, or WaPo-West, and began its’ long lonely descent into the tank of despair where it currently resides.
    It will probably take someone like his Grandfather to grab this mongrel by the scruff of its’ neck, and shake it back into a respectable, regional newspaper.
    Good Luck on that happening.

    AD (32d77b)

  26. I guess the paper is being stubborn about saving the official announcement for the news black hole of Friday afternoon

    if they want the news to go into a black hole, why don’t they just publish in the paper?

    i wanna know when the Spring Street building will be turned into lofts……..

    redc1c4 (9c4f4a)

  27. I blame Obama.

    Perfect Sense (0922fa)

  28. Their reporters think they’re destined and/or entitled to cover national or international news, and to earn the prestige that goes along with it.

    That’s very true. And since the editors at the LAT also think that way, it’s hard to fix. The LAT needs editors and reporters who believe that Los Angeles is an international city, so local coverage is also international coverage.

    LA has a melting pot of cultures, illegal immigration, Hollywood, high-tech, Southern California’s water wars – - – what a great news town!

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., who implores DRJ to remain at Patterico! (45b7d9)

  29. The Chicago Tribune made similar format changes last Fall, combining what were once separate sections. My reaction and that of my nonscientific sample of friends who read it has been uniformly negative. It’s tougher to find things and it’s no longer as easy to share a paper by simply saying gimme the sports section or gimme business or metro because they can be buried inside something else.

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  30. In this economy, the Los Angeles Times business section was only four pages long?

    Yeah, I understand that business sections are shrinking due to newspapers ceasing to print the stock market closes, but that’s ridiculous.

    And I’d bet that in that four-page business section, 50% of the space was advertising.

    The dumfounded Dana (3e4784)

  31. Well, that is the end of the paper. If they become simply a hard copy of the same wire service articles I read the day before on the web, there is no reason to buy it. The only reason to buy a paper these days is for local content that you can’t get on the news wires.

    Seems like suicide to me.

    crosspatch (c58f80)

  32. But who wants local news when there’s Pulitzer-bait like Enrique’s Journey at stake? That’s what the ediots care most about–recognition by their fellows, not the readers.

    Kate (3e5b03)

  33. And where else can you get the scathing indictments of conservatives that Nofanofcablecos and Sanctimonious Ectomorph serve up?

    No other journalist condemns the right or praises the left!

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R., who implores DRJ to remain at Patterico! (64dd41)

  34. The Times publisher overlooks one obvious cutback that would eliminate eight or nine money-wasting positions and please just about every Patterico reader: Fire the entire editorial board.

    James Fulton (d8da01)

  35. That idiot savant, Lee Abrams, the clueless Tribune functionary, also needs to be to given the opportunity to pursue other interests.

    Note to Sam Zell: Don’t ever complain about the LA Times while you pay for such morons.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  36. I guess this is a case of back to the future.

    The LA Times started off as a junkheap newspaper, then began to gain some traction and momentum over the past few decades, and now it’s headed for the graveyard, both financially and qualitatively.

    The grim reaper for a business like the LA Times is (1) the sea change represented by the arrival of the Internet, (2) the shorter attention span of younger generations of people, and (2) the increasingly non-literate, low-income populace of southern California.

    RIP, LA Times.

    And to all the clueless folks of the left, who constitute a high percentage of the workforce of most newspapers, including the LA Times (and the media in general) — and who often proclaim: “opposition to illegal immigration is both nativist and racist!!!” — I feel I must say: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

    Mark (411533)

  37. [...] No More California Section in LA Times January 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm | In Uncategorized | Tags: California, Los Angeles, media, newspapers No More California Section in LA Times: “The publisher decided to fold local news inside the front section…” [...]

    No More California Section in LA Times « The Salty Pundit (dae628)

  38. I expect to see the paper down to 4 sections: News, Sports, Fluff and Ads by the end of the year. Everything else gone or a special section.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  39. Just hours before the news broke, I was pondering the fate of the Times as I was reading the days calender section; “If the times can increase local coverage”, it might save itself”……….
    I’ve been reading the LA Times for 30 years and It’s very sad to see what has happened to this once great news organization.

    Rob L (392ba4)

  40. Why don’t they just get rid of their world news department and republish Daily Kos articles?

    Gary (e9fddd)

  41. [...] decision was made, see LA Observed’s announcement from this morning. And here’s what Patterico and the LA Weekly’s Steven Mikulan had to [...]

    WitnessLA.com » Blog Archive » Breaking Up With the LA Times (3054cc)

  42. [...] a stunning move, the paper killed its California section — even as it raised the price of the paper. But the paper decided to keep it on Sundays [...]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Patterico’s Los Angeles Dog Trainer Year in Review 2009 (e4ab32)


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