I exaggerate, but not all that much. After many rounds of job cuts in the last ten years–and the elimination of numerous regional editions, such as the Ventura County edition, which is still missed–the corporation in Chicago fired the publisher in LA, Jeff Johnson, because he refused to cut an estimated 200 or more jobs in the newsroom. No doubt we’ll be seeing more reporters out soon.
Local fatcats, including David Geffen, have repeatedly offered to buy the paper, even at an estimated price of $2 billion. It still throws off substantial cash yearly–$225 million last year, according to Businessweek–and still is one of the best papers in the country. But that’s not enough for the Wall Street analysts and Tribune stockholders.
An on-line editor suggests if Geffen or Eli Broad really wants good journalism in L.A., instead of spending billions on an existing paper, they could spend a fraction of that on an on-line version.
Contrary to the attitude of some within the Times building, many blogs and independent websites feature smart, original reporting. And many more would if they could cash a check from the likes of Eli Broad to support their efforts.
This is partly true. But as much as I would like the chance to get paid for my work here, I have to express my doubts about this theory. Look at the Hufftington Post, for example. It’s the most expensive site I know of (believed to have cost $2 million to launch) and has been a huge success, I gather, but it has approximately zero reporting.
Who but a big newspaper could fund this incredible story from the most polluted spot on earth?
Who else would be able to send a photographer and a writer to live with an immigrant family in the Central Valley for months, as for this stupendous story, The Summer of the Death of Hilario Guzman?
Who else would be able to put an experienced reporter on an epidemiological story for the weeks it took to document with precision and warmth how authorities (and parents!) traced the most recent fatal outbreak of e. coli 0157 to spinach?
Get real, folks.
The answer is: no one.
As much as I love the Internet, this kind of reporting is not going to be done by unshaven twenty-two years on laptops in their bedrooms. (Again, I exaggerate, but not too much.)
Here’s an example: a picture of a Russian man, Mikhail Lychmanyuk, who knows he will soon die because he cannot afford an operation to repair his heart, severely damaged working for a copper smelter. It was the only job in town, and Mikhail knew it was killing him even as he worked it.
"I’ll wait for the end," he told reporter Kim Murphy. I fear she may have heard this line with all too much resonance…