by RIP RENSE
July 31, 2008
Sam Zell, you are the death rattle of newspapers
in arguably human form. You are so profoundly and
willfully ignorant of the importance of newspapers, so
completely devoid of respect for their function in this society,
that it causes the brain to bend over, clutch its sides, and
purge itself of any remaining hope and sense. Who has time and
energy and brain cells for sense when the world---let alone,
newspapers---is increasingly taken over by the strictly,
bone-deeply, unapologetically, apocalyptically. . .venal?
"Partners," you so
nauseatingly write to your terrified Tribune Company/L.A. Times
slaves, with transparently phoney bonhomie and camaraderie,
"newspapers are a business." Har! I love this expression,
especially when applied to pro sports, as it usually is. No, no,
no, I yell (at the TV), "Sports are not, repeat not, a
business. They are fun games that happen to have acquired
And newspapers, well,
they are necessary parts of a healthy society that happen also
to be businesses. They are, Sam, the fourth estate---the
supposed watchdog on government and yes, business, that looks
out for the interests of "the people." You know, the last line
of defense between us and Dick Cheney. But never mind this, Sam.
We have Matt Drudge and Fox.
|People stroked their chins raw and
bloody in that joint. Hordes of reporters sat on their
haunches, turning out as many as a half-dozen articles a
year. Or one or two. Really.
So, dear readers, you all probably know that the Zell-ot
has decided to fire about 120 more editorial employees from the
L.A. Times, which, if my count is correct, should leave the
staff somewhere near 50,000. Okay, maybe 600-700. Seven Hundred
editorial employees to put out a newspaper! Not bad! How did
Zell arrive at this figure and decision? By (giggle) counting
the number (giggle) of pages (giggle giggle) produced by a given
journalist in a (giggle) year! This reminds me of the wonderful
criticism of Mozart's music in "Amadeus:" "Too many notes."
What a way to evaluate
productivity at the L.A. Times, where some reporters have as
many as five by-lines a year! Giggle!
Of course, I don't care
too much for the Times, and never have. You could light a whole
city with the energy expended in listing my reasons for this,
but don't worry---I won't bore you with that. The Times was what
it was---a carpeted dinless den of incredibly highly paid
"journalists" (as opposed to reporters) who were brainwashed by
management into thinking they were "great," and usually
comported themselves accordingly. From elegant fashion finery to
BMWs to urgent phone calls to Guatemalen maids to noses aimed at
building tops, you could spot a Times reporter like a nude woman
No management memo or
theater ad could ever, ever avoid referring to the Times as a
"great newspaper" producing "great journalism," when in fact it
was mostly just a great big newspaper (as I love to say.) Even
the new guy promoted to editor from within, Russ Stanton, who
supposedly will know how to "take the paper into the 21st
century" and all other corny, meaningless sloganeering, is
falling prey to the "great" disease in his memos. Geez, Russ.
Well, like it or hate
it, The Times did, in fact, do some great reporting,
have great foreign correspondents (still does), and break
some great stories/scandals. It still will, probably, by
mere percentages. In other words, there are so many reporters
there, some are bound to do good---maybe great---work.
|Those in the spring of life will
survive on Spring Street. The wizened, hoary, and
"colorful" will get the boot.
But it was never a great local paper, or even a very good local
paper, which was its GREAT failing. The Times's sorry hallmarks?
Stories that were usually interminable, with buried ledes (they
call them, ha ha ha, "nut grafs," ha ha ha), stuffy, wildly
pretentious "interpretive" writing, namby-pamby editorials,
sickeningly P.C. style guides, and that
you-can't-kill-it-with-nukes sense of "if it wasn't in the
Times, it didn't happen" arrogance. People stroked their chins
raw and bloody in that joint. Hordes of reporters sat on their
haunches, turning out as many as a half-dozen articles a year.
Or one or two. Really.
Them days is gone.
Yosemite Sam is a comin', you varmints, and he's got his guns
out. Or his scissors. This goofy son-of-a-bitch has decided that
the paper needs to be 50-50 ads and editorial copy. 50-50 ads
and news. And that overall, it needs to be skinnier---to have
fewer pages. That's his plan for saving dough: Give people less
for their money!
The Zell-ot's latest memo is full of platitudes and crap about
how "we're not giving readers what they want" and how the
"business model doesn't work" (love those "business model
references, as if this is all an exact science), and how readers
want "honest, unbiased" (yawn, yawn, triple yawn) journalism and
other totally crackpot junkaroo.
So the Zell-ot plans to cut X-number of pages a year in order to save
money, never mind that the paper is already so thin you can't
really have the fun of calling it "great big" anymore.
Especially since they are now about to kill the Sunday mag.
Okay, they're not really killing it, they're just turning it
over to some girl who used to be a host on the Home Shopping
Network. Exclamation point. Remember the big LAT "advertorial"
scandal involving the Sunday mag, under Mark "Cereal Killer"
Willes? The snake eats itself!
Though my sympathies are
tentative at best, what is happening in the
latest "round of cutbacks" reminds me of Madame Mao and the
Cultural Revolution. You know which heads are going to roll,
don't you? The ones with lots of hair dye and nips and tucks. A
whole bunch of young cool Times staffers recently
gathered in the editor's office where they were apparently told
their jobs were secure. Har! Those in the spring of life will
survive on Spring Street. The wizened, hoary, and "colorful"
will get the boot. |
And while I really do sympathize and
empathize with career journalists trying to figure out
what-the-fuck-to-do at age 55 (gasp), I am not terribly upset
about the loss of those stuffy, arrogant, "great" journalists
who turned out a half-dozen stories a year in order to fund
their $2 million mini-manse in Montrose and put Zoey, Ranger,
and Josh through private school.
As the great USC prof,
Joe Saltzman, once told me:
"Journalism used to be
working class people---people who were poor, and identified
with the poor, sick, and indigent, and the people who didn't
really have a voice. And who cared about the working class,
because they were a part of the working class---like Breslin
still is. Studs Terkel.
"Nowadays, the young people going into
journalism---even the old-timers---are purely of the middle and
upper middle class. They make a lot of money, comparatively, and
they really don't identify with the working class."
Anyhow, I cancelled my
Times subscription two years ago.