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A scary picture

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Idaho, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. Twoback

    Twoback Active Member

    In addition, they eviscerated the sports section, sucking the life and energy from what had been one of the best products in the industry. Maybe the problem is there. Maybe LAT doesn't really care about the overall circ numbers as much as it cares about maintaining the profit margin. You think?
  2. steveu

    steveu Well-Known Member

    Personally, I think OC's sports section is not too shabby. Lots more local than LAT, especially on Saturdays during football season, but it's just as comprehensive.
  3. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Yeah, Steve, but that's the thing that makes it sad.

    When The Times Orange County was in its heyday, here's what would happen on a typical Friday night in the fall. You'd have the Times' main sports section, with all the national coverage, college football previews, everything else.

    The completely separate staff in OC would then take and add up to 24 pages (might even be more) of OC only coverage on high school football Friday and anything else that was going on; and those pages were full of ads.

    So if you lived in Newport Beach, you might receive a Saturday sports section with 48 pages of national and local coverage. At its height, an OC reader of the Times was getting perhaps the best section in the country that day, and that's including Dallas and anywhere else.

    That's been gone for a long time, and maybe it wasn't worth the money. But it was impressive. In those days, OC Times sports, business, metro, lifestyle, entertainment more than held their own against the Register -- and it was much more fun for both papers.
  4. Left_Coast

    Left_Coast Active Member

    Absolutely right. And it wasn't as big, but the coverage was just as good, in the Valley.
  5. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Yep, for sure.
  6. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    That's some impressive stuff.

    However . . .

    . . . should we always judge a section against what it was at its high point?

    Do you always judge your favorite team's season based on the last year it won a championship?

    Likewise, we like to judge a daily newspaper sports section against The National because the National was, you know, very good.

    But it failed.

    It failed . . . and your section is still publishing. That counts for something, IMO.

    Sometimes the planets are aligned just right and the economic conditions exist that allow for 48-page Saturday sports sections and football preview sections that have 10 separate sections.

    But are those the norms . . . or abberations.

    If we hold a short-lived, once-in-a-lifetime period of publishing as the standard . . . then I fear we will always be disappointed.
  7. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    You're right, BT...but even allowing for economics up and downs, the Times made a conscious decision to basically punt much of its OC readership -- it's more an indication of a mindset as to whether they'd still be doing as much on a given day. They decided that they'd simply sell pretty much an L.A. paper in OC, with minimal zoning, as opposed to the aggressively staffed and zoned paper they once had.

    So they lost a lot of OC readership. It was probably less of an impact in the Valley.
  8. steveu

    steveu Well-Known Member

    Now THAT I was not aware of at all. Yikes. That's sad.
  9. The days of 24 additional pages, sadly, may be over. I don't think there is any doubt that the LAT is looking to increase profit margins....hell anyone is doing that, especially if you are a publicly traded company.

    I agree from above, I can't imagine not having a newspaper although you find better journalism these days on the internet.
  10. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    No doubt about that; none...
  11. Birdscribe

    Birdscribe Active Member

    Indeed, LC.

    You had Steve Elling (who I used to cover Golden League games with once upon a long time ago), Jason Reid and others in the Valley bureau.

    I read the Times from age 8 on until four years ago, when my wife cancelled it for personal reasons. SF is right; at one time, the OC edition was off-the-charts incredible. You would get all the downtown mainstays, plus some great prep coverage. They more than gave the OC Register more than it could bargain for.

    What the Times essentially did when Tribune took over 6 years ago was centralize everything and cut back on total circ numbers in favor of a better demographic. The brain-donors at Tribune figured if they got a better demo, they could make up for the lost circulation with higher rates because they were getting a more affluent audience: the Westside, parts of the Valley, etc. At the same time, they pretty much ceded one of those affluent areas: Orange County, to the Register.

    Now, you have Tribune managing things from Chicago and turning the Times into a branch-plant paper instead of what it used to be: the dominant paper west of the Rockies and one of the elite in the country. And you have a functionary editor-in-chief who won't take a stand to change things, a-la Gene Roberts or that guy in San Jose who resigned several years ago when Knight Ridder was making one of its periodical mindless cuts.

    Either way, the evisceration of what was a phenomenal and talented section is unfortunately moving right along, with some great people, writers and editors caught in the slipstream.

    Every time I read a thread on this topic, I go back to what Frank Ridgeway once said ... the truest words ever written on this subject. This is the only business that is giving people less and expecting them to pay the same or more for an inferior product.
  12. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Also, in the 1980s and 1990s the LAT stopped stocking racks all over the West with that day's paper. It was an intentional effort to cut circulation that cost more to deliver than it brought in. It's called "vanity circulation." The San Francisco Chronicle did a similar scale-back a few years ago. Other papers I can think of that did this kind of thing at one time or another: Miami, Newark, Des Moines, and I think Dallas and Detroit. What happens is advertisers see that X amount of the circulation is people who are too far away to shop in their stores and they don't want to pay to reach those people. So you factor in what it costs to deliver those papers and you're actually losing money on each sale for circulation your advertisers don't want to pay for.
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