Tags: Disconnects | Have | Their | Costs

Disconnects Have Their Costs

Wednesday, 14 September 2005 12:00 AM

The problem is, it was never personal for me. I always liked Michael as a person. I never really knew his boss. The problem was the paper.

From mid-June to mid-September of this year, 24 percent of the opinion columns in the Los Angeles Times, and 16 percent of the columns in The New York Times, were written by women. Nationally, according to Editor & Publisher, the number of women writing columns for the eight biggest syndicates rose from 24.4 percent to 24.5 percent during the past five months - or 24.44 percent (33 of 135 op-ed writers) to 24.46 percent (34 of 139).

There are more women than that with opinions, and many more among the readers of the paper and the potential purchasers of the products advertised in it. When was the last time you saw a man studying the ads for cosmetics? Disconnects like this have their costs.

When he resigned as editor of the paper last July, John Carroll - Kinsley's patron and defender - took credit for a much-improved paper journalistically; and he put all of the blame elsewhere for the steady and dramatic declines in circulation.

This is his oft-repeated statement: "I believe content had nothing to do with the circulation decline; if anything, the decline was mitigated by our content." It was accounting and budgeting, marketing and promotion, the do-not-call list, consumers ... everything but the contents of the paper. After all, look at all those Pulitzer Prizes. So what if people weren't buying it. What did they know?

In Washington, everyone understood my quarrel with Michael as both a personal fight and a fight about gender - the debate was all about why women are lagging, and whether to recognize it and deal with it explicitly.

In Los Angeles, it was completely different. The big issue wasn't me, and it wasn't women - it was the Los Angeles Times and its arrogance. They don't care about anybody, one after another of my callers told me. They don't think they have to deal with anyone, respect anyone, listen to anyone. They couldn't care less what anyone in this town thinks. They don't think they're of this community, they think they're above it.

And whom were these people calling me? Only the mayor's top aide. Only the former mayor. Only the leading members of this community, the leading donors to every cause, the people who make this community work, the richest, smartest, most successful people in town, who had been similarly ignored, slimed or stepped on as part of the brilliant content of our award-winning, much-hated and derided local paper, which generally has refused to recognize that it is located here. The whole thing was unbelievably depressing.

People have a lot of choices these days about where to get their news. They don't have to get it from folks who think they're better than those they serve. If content has nothing to do with circulation, then newspapers are the only product in the world where the quality of the product has absolutely nothing to do with whether the consumer spends his money on the purchase. I give people more credit than that.

The press is sometimes called the fourth branch of government to reflect its role in covering the government, because it has an obligation to keep its distance so that it can maintain its objectivity in covering the other three. No one suggests that the press get in bed with the community, but it should reflect it. The new leadership of the Times seems to have gotten that message. That's reason to celebrate, not gloat.

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The problem is, it was never personal for me. I always liked Michael as a person. I never really knew his boss. The problem was the paper. From mid-June to mid-September of this year, 24 percent of the opinion columns in the Los Angeles Times, and 16 percent of the columns...
Disconnects,Have,Their,Costs
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2005-00-14
Wednesday, 14 September 2005 12:00 AM
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