Easier said than done.
But I think we should focus on a related but more critical question: What makes a newspaper great? Money and readership are indicators of greatness, but they do not equal greatness. Greatness comes from pursuing the truth. At its best, The Times has done that. The paper's investigation of the Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital was a shining example of what this paper can achieve.
But there have been instances when I believe the paper has fallen woefully short. When it does, it costs the paper credibility, and that has nothing to do with Tribune.
For example, the paper ran a front-page story last month alleging that Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, had a website with pornographic images, including a "half-dressed man cavorting with a sexually aroused farm animal." The obvious suggestion was the video depicted bestiality in a prurient manner.
Nonsense. In fact, the video is humor. It portrays a man who is probably trying to relieve himself while trying to fight off an aroused donkey with one hand as he holds up his pants with the other. It has been shown on television and is available on YouTube. Most of the material on the judge's website, as it turned out, was similarly intended as humorous and not lewd. Many readers I know who viewed the actual material felt deceived by The Times' article. They felt that the newspaper tried to make the story seem splashier than it really was.
You can't blame that on Tribune.
Marc, the paper recently had to retract an article that was based on forged documents. Not only that, but the article also incorrectly claimed that one man had done time for drug offenses. How does that happen? I don't know -- and I don't see any desire on the part of the editors to explain it.
How can you blame Tribune for that?
The examples go on and on.
When a newspaper headline says that Californians "narrowly reject" gay marriage -- and readers must scour the story to learn that the margin is actually 19 points in favor of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban the practice -- something is wrong.
When the newspaper misquotes a respected U.S. attorney on the central fact of a story -- and he complains about it without success -- something is wrong.
When a columnist claims that documents don't exist, when they actually do; or claims that the vice president said something, when he actually didn't; or claims that the U.S. attorney general refused to say something, when he actually did, something is wrong.
These sorts of things are not the hallmark of a great newspaper.
And you can't blame any of them on Tribune.
Patrick Frey blogs at patterico.com.