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Jewish World Review May 12, 2000 / 7 Iyar, 5760

Greg Crosby

Greg Crosby
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Extra! Read All About It!

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- IíVE BEEN HEARING the moaning and groaning for weeks. When the Tribune Co. of Chicago takes over Times Mirror, Los Angeles will be devoid of a locally owned major newspaper. Well, boo, hoo, hoo. Poor us. I say, ďGood!Ē And who knows -- maybe the paper will actually improve! Itís been a dumbed-down politically correct propaganda rag for years, anyway!

As a native Angelino Iíve watched the LA Times sliding down hill for more than twenty-five years. Iíve seen itís journalistic integrity slowly shrinking right along with itís column sizes.

The Los Angeles Times, for as long as I can remember, has always been a member of the elite liberal press, holding much the same ideology and editorial positions as itís eastern counterparts like The New York Times and The Washington Post. While I personally may have a different political bent, I certainly donít fault them for their ideology and editorial opinions. I believe itís essential for a newspaper to maintain a solid editorial viewpoint -- even if that viewpoint differs from mine. The key to journalistic integrity, however, is keeping that editorial viewpoint separate and apart from the hard news reporting in the body of itís paper. On this score the Times has failed miserably.

More often than not, the news stories in the LA Times are written with a decidedly left-leaning bias. A few years ago stories were slanted in subtle ways, now itís far more blatant. And Guess what? When fair and balanced reporting on a story is called into question, a newspaper loses itís credibility.

The slanting of news stories is not the only example of lousy journalistic judgment shown by the Times lately. Last December, an embarrassed Times had to apologize to its readers and disclose a deal to share profits from an edition of the Sunday magazine with Staples Center, the new sports arena that was the subject of the magazine.

Many journalists saw the Staples scandal as the final straw culminating from a bad policy decision championed by Mark Willes, current chairman and chief executive. Willes was determined to break down the traditional walls between the newspaperís editorial and business (read: advertising) sides. Money, money, money, money.

Apparently, another policy decision was made several years ago to decrease copy space on the page and increase photos. Less reading, more looking at pictures. A decision which no doubt came out of the desire to compete with the highly visual nature of television. Great! Just what we need ... an unmoving version of a moving medium!

Iíve been hearing for over thirty years how expensive newsprint paper is. The increasing cost of newsprint is the reason why the comics are so small, they say. The exorbitant price of newsprint is the reason that papers must cut down on their size, they tell us. The excessive cost of newsprint is the reason why story copy must be cut to a minimum, they explain.

I donít doubt that paper prices have increased over the years, but why, if paper is at such a premium, have photographs DOUBLED and TRIPLED in size on the page? Some photos take up an entire half page of space or more! And Iíve watched the type size for the section names double in size through the years, too. Also, thereís a lot more ďair,Ē or empty space surrounding photos and copy these days. Odd choices when space is so valuable.

One of the reasons I subscribe to The Wall Street Journal is that it actually feels like a real newspaper. The WSJ maintains the larger, traditional newspaper width and they seldom, if ever run photos! Their stories are well researched and they maintain that important division between the editorial pages, the news stories, and the advertising department. It truly is one of the great newspapers in America.

Perhaps incoming publisher, John Puemer and incoming editor, John Carroll will be able to turn the Los Angeles Times around and make it, if not one of the great newspapers, at least a paper with some integrity and credibility. I hope so. Los Angeles could use it.


JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.

Up

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© 2000, Greg Crosby