Adapt or die it's up to the L.A. Times
A future without the L.A. Times would be unthinkable. Bird cages across the Southland would go unlined. Dogs would have nothing on which to train. Fish would go unwrapped in countless Southern California households.
I kid! I kid because I love.
Seriously, though, I have no doubt that the editors of The Times think that their paper is the glue that holds the Southland together. I hate to break it to you, editors, but we could get along just fine without you.
On Monday, we learned that reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber are leaving the newspaper. Ironically, just yesterday in this space, I was praising their series on the Martin Luther King Jr-Harbor Hospital. The loss of these talented reporters is indeed a hard blow to The Times. But we'll still be able to read Ornstein and Weber in a Web-based journalism start-up. They're becoming part of the Internet-driven revolution in news gathering that is challenging dinosaur media like The Times.
Southern California can live without The Times. In fact, in many cases, local journalism already runs rings around this newspaper.
Take the L.A. Weekly, for example, which helped reveal the true facts of the Tennie Pierce case while The Times slept.
The Weekly exposed the laughable naivete of a 2005 Times article lionizing an alleged "former gang member" supposedly turned "man of peace." The Weekly's secret trick? Talking to law enforcement!
The Weekly printed an excellent piece about gang warfare in housing projects. Meanwhile, The Times couldn't be bothered to run one line on the shooting death of a teenager in Compton. Yet somehow, the paper found room for a dozen stories about Paris Hilton's jail sentence.
The Weekly covered the criminal trial of local civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman, while The Times was nearly AWOL.
Just last month, the Weekly published an excellent piece about the U.S.-Mexico border and the border fence. The piece was alive with detail, better than any immigration piece I've seen in The Times. If this sounds familiar, it should. The Weekly reporter is a fellow named Marc Cooper.
The Weekly is hardly the only competing outlet. The Daily News broke the story about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's affair. L.A.'s top newspaper got scooped on that one too.
Marc, there's no shortage of talented local journalists ready to deliver the news. The competition stands ready to appropriate available talent and fill any void that might be caused by the demise of The Times.
A larger newspaper has advantages such as institutional expertise and massive resources. But for The Times, those advantages are coupled with a hidebound arrogance, born of years of existence as a monopoly.
To adapt, it's critical to shake off that insolence. Times editors, be honest with your readers. Listen to your readers. Stop assuming you're the smartest people around. You're smart. So is the competition. But you can beat the competition if you recognize that your readers are smarter than you and the competition combined. Recognize that and turn it to your advantage.