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God Save the LA Times

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On Tuesday night, Zócalo sponsored another in its series of panel discussions, this one titled “Can the LA Times Be Saved?” The discussion was moderated by Kit Rachlis, editor of Los Angeles Magazine. Panelists were Times Editor Jim O’Shea, Managing Editor Leo Wolinsky, General Manager Dave Murphy and Executive Editor of LATimes.com Meredith Artley.

There were two related but very different issues at hand: one being the widespread problem of the declining circulation and revenues of print newspapers in general, the other being the more specific issues plaguing the Times and its perceived decline in quality. Then, of course, there is the point where the two issues converge: how the Times is managing (or mismanaging) the changing media landscape.

Rachlis opened up the discussion by reciting a litany of common complaints made about our local paper: it’s too liberal, the website sucks, it reads like it’s run from Chicago, and of course bafflement over the recent buyouts of a slew of contributors, most notably the much-loved, longtime columnist Al Martinez. He summed it up, “Circulation drops and that affects advertising revenue, advertising revenue leads to staff cutbacks, staff cutbacks affect quality, quality then affects circulation. How does that description not sound like a death spiral?”