Writing in his New York magazine column (i.e., “Imperial City”), Kurt Andersen has explained and nailed what I’ve long hated about the L.A. Times (except for some of the Hollywood coverage): “L.A.’s liberalism remains far more circa-1975 paleo than New York City’s, and the L.A. Times‘ journalism, which tends toward the dull and the earnest, reflects that. Racking up Pulitzer Prizes — the paper’s won fourteen in the last six years — doesn’t mean that a paper is exciting or essential to its readers, and can even be a contraindicator.
“The notion that tedious worthiness equals substance and importance and vice versa is compensation for the elites’ anxiety about the very L.A.-ness of L.A. — sun, fun, show business, too few intellectuals and crowded sidewalks, too many fake breasts and self-confident dumb people.”
The column was prompted, of course, by the Times‘ circulation shrinkage and the various contractions that have resulted:
“Most newspapers are dinosaurs, certainly as newsprint creatures, facing extinction sooner rather than later. Our cretaceous era is ending,” Amnderson recaps. “But the Los Angeles Times is the Brachiosaurus of its genus. In 1990, it had a daily circulation of 1.2 million, as big as [the N.Y.] Times. Today, it’s down to 850,000, and the decline has accelerated since 2000, when the Tribune company bought the paper.
“Naturally, Tribune executives in Chicago have wanted to cut expenses accordingly. And naturally, people at the paper hate the perpetual game of musical chairs. Last month, editor Dean Baquet publicly refused to go along with any further layoffs, and Jeff Johnson, a Tribune lifer who had been his publisher for only a year, publicly supported him. ‘Newspapers,’ Johnson was quoted in an article in his own paper, ‘can’t cut their way into the future.'”
Tedious worthiness! That’ll hold me for a few days.