CJR: Give it Up Already, TribCo

An unsigned editorial in the Columbia Journalism Review declares that the Tribune has to pull out of the newspaper business entirely — in addition to relinquishing ownership of the LA Times ASAP.

Meanwhile, I got a voicemail today from an LAT subscriptions-bot saying that my Fri-Sun subscription (which costs $1.25/wk — offer is here) will now include Thursdays at no additional cost. Any chance I can donate these free papers to ensure the job security of my favorite columnists that have not yet been laid off?

The CJR article is here. Kevin Roderick summarizes and points to additional links at LAObserved here. A thoughtful post at labrainterrain on the depressing state o’ the Times. Also, Mack at LAVoice.

la times flickr photo by debaird
photo from debaird’s flickr.

Tribune’s curious strategies for the future of news

Newspaper Cuts - Daryl Cagle Nov 19 2005

When I moved to Los Angeles in August I fell in love with the LA Times – there actually is a REAL newspaper outside of DC or New York, I thought. I wondered how they could pull off an international grade paper with various nat’l and international bureaus under the Trib Co umbrella (I had previously dealt with the increasing rate of newsworthlessness as a reader of my hometown Chicago Tribune.

Ken Auletta’s piece in the New Yorker a month ago or so made it obvious that I had fallen in love with the LA Times just as the the paper could no longer resist the effects of the slow yet suffocating downsizing of Tribune Co’s newspaper outlets. Alas, not even Dean Baquet would be able to salvage it. My new lover is undergoing a rapid anorexic disformation – under a forced hunger strike.

Still, Steve Lopez exuded award-winning, ambitious journalism with his Skid Row series. A deep search of the web reveals that very little traffic visits the Chicago Tribune’s website for national or international content. On the other hand, the most e-mailed article in today’s LA Times is columnist Tim Rutten’s take on Bob Woodward‘s involvement in the leak investigation. (Rutten was forced off a post as a National editor in a round of Trib Co cuts, only to recreate himself as a columnist, albeit relegated to the “Calendar” section. He has since been named Associate Editor of Features).

LA Times had managed to keep up despite repeated cuts to staffing, maintaining 22 international bureaus, some with multiple staff members, whereas Chicago Tribune currently staffs just12 individual foreign “correspondents.”

Following the bastardizing of the op-ed columnist line-up, abandoning the weekly “Outdoors” section and the launching a Metromix for Tinseltown The Envelope website, the LA
Times is looking more and more like its crippled sister paper.

The choices that media corporations make in the coming years in making a transition to the teenaged generation (the last that will buy newspapers) is not to be taken lightly. The audience is well aware of the multiple options for newsgathering and is quicker than ever to scrutinize sweeping corporate-minded changes that ignore the intellectual and consumer-friendly values of the product. Simply put, content transcends multiple media, but poor quality content does not translate much better – if at all – in different contexts. Its insulting.

A Look to the Future: For the past year or so the Chicago Tribune has highlighted the inside back page of Section 1 with the laughably pathetic ” PERSONALS: WHO’S WHO & WHAT’S UP NAME DROPPING.” Every Day. Section 1.

A weekly column in the Tempo section showed up a year ago as wel, summarizing the content of that weeks’ US Weekly, Star, InStyle and the like. On the front page of Tempo, no less, Its heading: CELEBRITY MAGAZINES: WE READ THEM SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO.

Now, I understand the “what’s going on in the Soaps this week,” and other gossippy columns, that regularly appear in a tucked away but consistent corner of the paper. But to have these 2 regular sections, so prominently placed – and given their bold headings – is just downright insulting.

The Metromix concept is one that the Tribune is expanding, and The Envelope is likely a result of this. Be on the look out in your town.

Finally, and i hate to bring this up, but a friend told me that they’re going to start charging for Red Eye. Red Eye is the 30 or 40 page tabloid roundup of news summaries, sports and entertainment launched a couple years ago in Chicago. Shaped not unlike The Onion, it is filled with photo and graphic-heavy summaries of the news as defined by a high school student, written at a 7th grade level. They have been charging a quarter for it since it launched, at least 2 years ago, and there are cash boxes where its available for purchase right next to The Sun Times copycat Red Streak. But its given away for free everywhere, hence its no surprise that its news if they “start charging.”

As the Tribune Company continues its mission to dumb down society one job cut at a time, while future strategies of any media corporation are trivial and unproven, all I ask for is please, please, please:

A World Championship Chicago Cubs team in 2006.