No Big Deal

Posted on March 9, 2011 by

Big News: The AOL HuffPo merger 

Medium News:  Daily Beast acquires Newsweek

Little News: The Los Angeles Times, owned by bankrupt Tribune Corporation, considers buying Orange County Register.

Not many years ago, the Los Angeles Times was the only game in town.

In the PR business (that’s where I started in LA), placing your story in the paper was the best way to drive the local broadcast news cycle.

When you met a reporter in “the building” – across from city hall of course – you could sense that you were at the hub of civic power.

From its origin as a fanatical right-wing, anti-union, pro-growth propaganda sheet to a world class national publication under Otis Chandler, the Times defined this region.  Now part of a corporate power struggle among owner Sam Zell – an eccentric and erratic Chicago real estate developer – and some big ticket creditors like J.P. Morgan, it’s up to a federal bankruptcy judge to untangle the mess.

Part of Zell’s initial interest apparently was the potential real estate value – until the market crashed – of the downtown landmark.  (Can you say Times Mirror Square condos?)

Though there are still some great writers at the paper, the number of workaday reporters and editors is about half of what it was 15  years ago (and so is the circulation).

And while there’s always talk about some LA mogul saving what’s left of this once mighty Southern California institution, so far no one’s put up the doe.

So maybe Zell will sell off the western piece of Tribune (The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field were sold in 2009) or perhaps the whole media group gets picked apart by Wall Street predators.

But the sad part is that it doesn’t seem to matter very much.  It barely even shows up in a google search.

Comments (7)


  1. Oh, it matters. It matters a lot. Newspaper, and media consolidation is the greatest single threat to this democracy.

    Right you are, Lou. The LA Times has some of the finest journalists out there, and can hold its own with all the best print that’s fit to print.

    Maybe, in another hundred years or so, newspapers will be non-profit operations, and even partially subsidized by the government which, by the way, may not be a bad thing. After all, given the coverage by the NYT in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, that newspaper may as well have been totally subsidized by the government (esp. the Pentagon).

  2. Alan K. says:

    Forget the doe, what we need are some bucks.

  3. kerry c. says:

    I tend to read the NYT , Wash Post and skip the Times, so I’m wondering who are the “finest journalists” in the land that I should be reading at the L.A. Times. And I guess you are referring to reporters, not opinion writers?


  4. Gavin says:

    Don’t get me started about Tribune. I have personally negotiated labor agreements with KTLA over several years and can directly attest to how anti-union / labor the company is. The station is making serious $$ income and claims they have no money to pay workers. KTLA is one only a few stations Tribune owns which are union – a lobor agreement existed they bought it. Other labor orgs share similar views. What bothers me most is this philiosphy (if you can call it that – i call it greed) carries over to their on-air content – choice of stories/ news slants – good news should be presented neutrally warts and all, not for ratings.

  5. kerry c. says:

    Just one more question about the L.A. Times, is there a reporter there of some seniority who has covered labor in a fair and even sympathetic fashion? k

    • Lou says:

      here are the past LA Times labor reporters, as I remember them, starting with the most recent (none are there anymore): Joe Matthews, Nancy Cleeland, Stu Silverstein, Bob Baker, Henry Weinstein, Harry Bernstein

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