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The Sad, Slow Decline of the LA Times

The LA Times is a great, great paper. Not a “national” paper, perhaps, in the same way that the NY Times, the Washington Post, or the Wall Street Journal are, but darn close.

The breadth and scope of its reporting in the last decade has been impressive. The paper has won a slew of Pulitzers for its in-depth reporting; it has a wonderful stable of in-house columnists; it’s one of the last multi-page comics spreads in the U.S.; it’s one of a handful of papers that maintains a stand-alone “Books” sections in the Sunday paper…and the list goes on and on.

But it’s slowly dying. Or, better put, it’s shrivelling down to a lesser version of itself. And it’s sad to watch.

The paper is certainly not “dying” in the financial sense. Like a lot papers, the profit margins at the Times still outpaces most Fortune 500 companies. But ever since it moved from family ownership to Tribune corporate ownership, it’s been under steady stockholder demands for increasing profitability. Tie that to the slow trickling away of readership and the ad dollars that go with it, and the Times’ corporate management finds itself cutting staff, cutting features, cutting print runs, cutting columnists and cutting cartoonists.

And cutting…and cutting…and cutting. And it’s sad.

In a lot of ways, the LA Times is the reason I decided to refocus Sheldon solely on the web. Living in Los Angeles, I could see the writing on the wall as far as making a living in traditional newsprint…just by looking at my local paper.

But when I picked up my copy of the Times today, the paper itself was so thin. It’s not just the missing reports and features that I find myself noticing. The overall paper just feels smaller.

All of which, of course, will drive away the next batch of readers who once took the paper. Which in turn will drive the next round of cuts to staff and features.

Bums me out to watch it happening.