music, technology & life in pasadena, california

An Open Letter to the LA Times

Dear LA Times,

Now that you’re being bought out by a Chicago billionaire and unhitching yourself from the demands of the stock market, maybe you can take the time to reassess and decide what’s really important in today’s news business and your commitment to your customers.

The first thing you should do is to bring back your bureaus, instead of relying on a “feed” being doled out by a conglomeration of reporters working for the “corporation”. Don’t you think your readers deserve more than what you’ve been giving them the last few years? The fact that publisher after publisher has left the paper should give you a clue that things ain’t right and that you’ve abandoned what news is all about in a fundamental way.

The second thing, and this should be dealt with as an emergency of the highest order, is to fix your website. It’s confusing, it’s ugly, it’s not inviting and, if the news business is truly moving toward an online-only existence as you and others have been whining about the last few years, please make it work properly. The search function is pathetic, oftentimes not even finding an article you’re looking for unless you already know the title it was originally published under. Have you heard of this little northern California company called Google? Maybe if you had them help you out you might learn a little something about advertising revenues as well.

Thirdly, how about opening up your archives instead of nickel-and-diming everyone whenever they’re looking for something more than a week old? I mean, c’mon…a library card at the Pasadena Public Library lets me do a full text search and retrieval going back 22 years. More people are referencing articles and sources online as never before and it’s pretty annoying to find that the material isn’t available anymore and hidden behind a credit-card entry screen gatekeeper. C’mon…open it up and figure out a way to actually make money from all that new traffic that’ll be directed your way as a result. Try not to make the same mistakes as the record companies. I know that’ll be hard…you’re old media, right?

I could go on and on about the little things, like how you ruined the Calendar section by combining the social pages along with it. Yeah, that’s just what people want to see…a Philharmonic review right next to a photo of Paris Hilton at another party for the brain dead. Oh, I’m sorry…I forgot…that’s called synergy, isn’t it? Or how about redesigning the front page (hell, why stop there?) so it doesn’t look like a ransom note using twenty different typefaces?

Don’t get me wrong, my Los Angeles Times. I love to sit down and have coffee with you every morning. I love the tactile feel of newsprint and the ensuing ritual of actually reading a newspaper. I’m not one of those who are ready to believe that your useful life is over in this modern world. You just need to find out how to exploit your strengths, how not to treat your customers as lowest common denominators, and bring back the integrity that your business was founded upon. If you can do that, you’ll be OK...otherwise twenty-five bucks a month is a lot to pay for a few sheets of birdcage liner.

April 4, 2007 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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