Feb 17, 2009

Where has the good Times gone?

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Mathews, now at the New America Foundation, writes in the New Republic about what's gone missing at his hometown newspaper:
You can count up the journalists who have left the profession and are out of work, but much of the carnage of the ongoing media industry can't be measured or seen: corruption undiscovered, events not witnessed, tips about problems that never reach anyone's ears because those ears have left the newsroom. With fewer watchdogs, you get less barking. How can we know what we'll never know?


Gone is the stuff my neighbors and relatives read, the straightforward news about their local communities, particularly in the suburban counties that ring Los Angeles, a county of ten million people and 88 cities. A decade ago, the Times fielded more than a dozen reporters in the some of the county's larger cities. Dozens more toiled in the big, growing areas that border L.A.--Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange. Yes, those writers were young and green. Yes, they missed things, as inexperienced reporters do. But they were there. They watched council meetings and school board meetings and county supervisors meetings. They called the cops. They looked at court filings. The most ambitious dug deeply into problems of transportation and development.
And how many of those inexperienced reporters, now gone, won't grow up to become the experienced journalists leading the newsrooms of the future?

One point Mathews makes that I'd quibble with: Local papers cover the smaller cities and suburban counties of Southern California...

The line seems to imply that the local papers remain intact. Local papers have not escaped the carnage. Many have suffered far more damage than the Times - although far fewer people depend on them for comprehensive coverage. Still, even before the Times began amputating its limbs, it depended on healthy local papers to beat the bushes and scare out stories it never had the resources to find. That, too, is disappearing and shouldn't be ignored.

1 comment:

pasadenapio said...

I miss the days when the L.A. Times had a reporter devoted full-time to Pasadena (Richard Winton). And the Pasadena Bureau (which was silly since it didn't cover Pasadena) has closed.