Just got back from an interesting panel presentation on the topic “Can the LA Times Be Saved” in downtown LA sponsored by the Zocalo Public Square Lecture Series. Sort of thought I might see a southern California community college journalism teacher or two in the crowd, but I didn’t (it was on the JACC calendar!).
Zocalo sponsors a number of free lectures and panel discussions throughout LA each year, many of them centered on media and all of them free.
For those interested, there is a second chance as Zocalo records the presentations and broadcasts them on KPCC radio, one of LA’s NPR stations, on Sunday nights and then posts them as podcasts on the www.kpcc.org website after that. I’ll update this post with a link to the podcast when it appears.
Panelists were all from the LA Times management and moderator Kit Rachlis, editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Magazine, asked some probing questions about problems facing the LA Times, such as how does laying off 62 reporters, including six Pulitzer Prize winners translate to maintaining quality? The questions, I thought, brought out some interesting thoughts about strategy.
Some interesting tidbits:
There was discussion of whether the LAT would ever drop its Monday edition, which is its biggest money loser. Seems that readership drops significantly at the beginning of the week and picks up as the week progresses. Interestingly, the readership of the online site is exactly the opposite.
Should the web operation be separate from the print operation as it is with the Washington Post? No, in fact by separating the two operations from the start, the Washington Post got a quick start on the web, but now it has hit a wall. The LAT, which has described itself as “web stupid” has a lot of ground to make up. The paper’s online executive editor was asked if the train has left the station as far as developing a significant presence on the web.
There was a lot of positive talk about the print edition and its future, but there was a lot of enthusiasm for the online potential. But poo-pooed was the idea of simply shoveling content from the print edition to the web. Online content needs to be different than simply writing stories. Telling stories with other formats, such as video, audio, blogs, interactive graphics, etc. is where online is going to grow.
The editor of the paper kept proudly mentioning that while the paper still stresses national and international news, it is edited locally by people who live in LA (and breathe LA air and drive LA freeways). He was making a point, but I wanted to ask him why the Times doesn’t hire reporters from LA or help train LA reporters, it is a destination paper. Didn’t get the chance, though.