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Jewish World Review
May 4, 2007
/ 15 Iyar 5767
Los Angeles Times death watch
Witnessing the death of anything that was once alive and vital is not a pleasant experience. Although never a fan of the ultra liberal Los Angeles Times I am nevertheless saddened to watch it fade, going not gently, but agonizingly into that good night.
The "Left" Angeles Times, as I and many others have referred to it, has spent the better part of the last two or three decades moving further and further towards the far left, not only in its editorial views, but even within its "hard news" pages.
Some years ago the Chandler family, after owning the paper forever, sold the Times to the Chicago Tribune Co. which took much of the "local" feeling out of the paper. Lots of other changes were made including new editors, new columnists, and section names, and lots of new executives. The only thing to survive the take over, it seemed, was that the paper remained steadfastly liberal in its slanted news coverage. But as time went on and more and more changes were made, very little hard news was left in the Left Angeles Times. The focus was shifted to features, entertainment and fashion. I guess they figured those were the only things that people who live in Southern California care about.
Most recently, real estate mogul Sam Zell has purchased the Tribune Company which, in addition to the L.A. Times, includes other important papers like The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, and Newsday. For a measly down payment of $315 million Sam Zell got it all including the Chicago Cubs and other goodies, some of which will be sold off. In an interview recently Mr. Zell said that it he has no intention of selling The L.A. Times. "I don't have any plans to sell any newspapers. We're going to own all of the newspapers for the foreseeable future," he was quoted as saying. Swell. Whether or not this will mean an improvement for the dying paper is anybody's guess. My guess is that it's too late for any last minute CPR.
For any serious newspaper, the Op-Ed pages are its heart and soul. I don't care if it's liberal or conservative; a newspaper has the right to speak its mind to its readers and vice versa. However, the Op-Ed section should be the ONLY place where the paper's point of view should rear its slanted head. To skew a story in any particular direction, to push a political agenda within what otherwise appears to be a straight ahead story simply undermines the paper's credibility as fair and dispassionate. Journalistic objectivity, by and large, should be the order of the day in the main section of any paper. The views held by the L.A.Times as printed within its hard news reportage have been transparently leftist for years. Not good form for a serious news journal, my friends.
For the longest time liberal slants have been predominately featured in virtually every single section of the paper from comics to sports to fashion, to society, to entertainment and to, yes, even the food section.
To make matters worse, if they actually could be made worse, the Times has now totally eliminated the separate Op-Ed section of its Sunday edition and rolled it within the Book Review tabloid section. The message this sends to readers is clear "we, the L.A. Times, no longer consider Op-Ed important enough to warrant its own section." Now I suppose a cynic might argue that since the paper has its views and opinions scattered throughout all the other sections of the paper, having a separate section for opinion is redundant, but hey, I'm kind of an old fashioned guy. I like my sports to be in the sports section, the comics to be in the comic section, and the opinion to be in the opinion section. Sue me.
You know, I think the problem is that the Times just doesn't know what the hell to do with the Op-Ed pages. Maybe the fresh twenty-somethings they've been hiring are having a tough time grasping the basic concept of "editorial and opinion." Case in point: Not long ago the newspaper had a brilliant idea, it thought, as a way to enliven and update the Op-Ed pages they would hire a guest celebrity to become the de facto Editor of the section, four different guest editors a year. First one out of the box was movie producer Brian Grazer. But then, just days before the thing was due to hit the streets, all hell broke loose.
The paper killed the whole idea after news leaked out that the editorial page editor's girlfriend worked for the public relations firm representing Grazer and his Imagine Entertainment. Critics accused the paper of having a "conflict of interest" and fearing more bad press (no pun intended) the publisher stepped in and nixed it. The editor of the editorial page then quit in a huff and the big concept of using guest celebrity editors was scrapped for good thank goodness.
But you see the point? The Times doesn't get it. They really, truly don't know what to do with their newspaper. They keep increasing the style, entertainment, and fashion aspects of the paper while at the same time devaluating more serious aspects of the paper like book reviews and editorial pages. I don't know what Sam Zell and his people will bring to the editorial meetings in the future, but whatever they do, they can't make it any worse. Or can they?
Maybe its time to just pull the plug on her. They call The NewYork Times "the old grey lady." The Los Angeles Times might be named "the old grey Hollywood star." Heroic measures have been tried without success to keep her career going. The Times has had just about every kind of make-over she could have. In keeping with her West Coast attitude, the paper has undergone more than her share of cosmetic surgery, face-lifts, body-peels, and infusions. She's had electrolysis, Botox, waxing, and full body massages. She's been in rehab, she's had group therapy, shock therapy, and spiritual elevations. She has contemplated her navel and come up with only lint. With everything tried, still the starring roles don't come. The plum parts going to the internet and cable. Right now she isn't even worthy of character parts. And all the voice work goes to the big names.
Time to put the old grey Hollywood lady to bed.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby