FORGET ABOUT a subscription, let’s buy the whole newspaper, presses and all. If you, my fellow 10 million residents of Los Angeles County, each chip in $300, we can cough up the $3 billion needed to buy and collectively own the most powerful local institution -- the Los Angeles Times.
Billionaires eager to buy the paper have been saying that “the chance for the L.A. Times to be locally owned again is an opportunity not to be missed” and “the community would be best served by local ownership.”
But what I am proposing is genuine local ownership. Why let the Broads, Geffens and Burkles have all the fun? Wouldn’t it be great to have your own newspaper -- really your own newspaper -- delivered to your doorstep every morning. You will be able to see the return on your investment every day. And because you are a part-owner, you will have a say, a voice, in determining how the daily product can be updated and refined to better serve you, the reader and equity investor.
I’m sure all 10 million of us can agree on who should run the paper, and how it should be done. Do we open a bureau in Rio or Santiago? What do we think of Sudoku? How about ads on the front page?
As far as the editorial page is concerned, no worries. Let’s have a dozen of the paper’s owners chosen at random to serve stints on the editorial board. Again, this newspaper will be truly representative of the community. A more representative newspaper would consider launching foreign-language editions, reflecting the county’s demographics.
Individually, we’d each gain power, wealth and access, but none of us would be so empowered as to sway all coverage, which anyone in their right mind plopping down $3 billion should insist on doing. I don’t mean to say that the billionaires interested in buying the paper should be shut out of the action. Let these generous souls and venture philanthropists subsidize the $300-a-share ownership for some of our lowest-income fellow citizens. They could get the best parking spots for their trouble; maybe even a column on the Op-Ed page.
Of course, the business upside here is enormous. At a time when the paper is struggling to boost circulation, what better way to increase its reach beyond 1 million folks than by giving another 9 million an ownership stake in the product? Advertisers may have to pay such a premium for space in a newspaper read by so many millions that we may all be able to vote ourselves a free subscription ... and maybe even a dividend down the road.