What's Happened to the Los Angeles Times: The Thinning of America's Dailies

com/photos/61926883@N00/2054107736/ A stack of newspapers | Date 2007-11-21 11:18 | Author http://www. flickr. stack of newsp
com/photos/61926883@N00/2054107736/ A stack of newspapers | Date 2007-11-21 11:18 | Author http://www. flickr. stack of newspapers (cropped).jpg ...

In Saturday's Los Angeles Times' Calendar section on the TV listing page there was a note to readers that informed us that starting February 26 they will no longer show the TV schedule, directing us to search online for each day's programming. They also tell us that for a six-month period latimes.com members may register for TV Weekly to be delivered at no additional cost with the Sunday Times (as their in-house TV magazine used to be until that stopped a few years ago). Though I tried to do that at latimes.com, there appeared no way to do so, forcing me to call their phone support line in Asia, whose representative signed me up but had no information about what would occur at the end of the six-month period.

And this is shortly after they announced a few weeks ago that they would no longer show the relatively scant financial information the paper still offered, such as major foreign currency prices, also directing us to their website to which they'd previously steered us a few years ago in order to see stock prices, which they no longer felt compelled to print. Though one can still bring up stock prices by typing the symbols individually (somewhat time consuming if you want to check a large portfolio), I can see no listing or link to the latest foreign currency exchange.

In addition, they combined the Sunday Real Estate and Business Sections into one unit, did away with their weekly, then monthly, magazine and started putting movie ads on the front page. One of the most recent ones, a large ad for the film Quartet wasn't even at the bottom, as with most such ads, but took up space where news articles used to go.

I understand newsprint publishers are facing hard times, but it's getting to the point where I wonder why they even bother publishing any longer? It's true many younger people get their news online -- which for the most part means the headlines -- the really big stories -- and don't want to spend the time to read in-depth articles as so many generations did before. And that's really sad.

Mind you, I watch cable news such as CNN and MSNBC, sometimes even Fox News, and realize that the Internet is faster and easily accessible. For breaking news events these are significant innovations, and I have to admit I've learned about major happenstance when I log onto AOL or sometimes get a heads up from a Facebook friend, which is how I learned of the pope's resignation.

But there comes a time when there should be a level of dignity to what remains. It's evident that a lower circulation means lower revenues through their primary source of income, which is advertising. And that might mean that fewer services will be delivered, but newspapers aren't even going the way of airlines, nickel and diming us for what we came to expect. They've simply eliminated a lot of the content from what we're paying for or making us spend time hunting online for stuff which was once right in front of us.

And how much does it cost to print the TV schedule, considering that they've already gathered the information if it's available on their website? Don't they realize how annoying this will be, because that's the sort of information that should be at the ready at the end of the day instead of running to your computer, which would often be necessary, because data service signals on mobile phones are not always strong enough and surfing newspapers on a phone screen is slow and bothersome.

Not to mention that pre-printed TV magazines aren't as accurate as the daily schedules are, which are more up-to-date regarding network programming changes, such as specials and other pre-emptions.

Newspapers used to be a treasure trove -- and this may be interesting coming from someone contributing to an online publication, but websites do not offer the same quality that comes in the form of a three-dimensional journal. Most online articles are not too substantive, and even when one has the ability to go on the web and see the actual newspaper as it was printed, which the Los Angeles Times offers to its paid subscribers, it is cumbersome at best. I have attempted to read it when I've been traveling overseas and just don't have the patience to scroll down vertically or across horizontally to read the numerous articles I normally do when the newspaper is in my lap or even propped up on a treadmill when I am exercising.

What's happening is that newspapers, in giving us less, are actually lowering our expectations to the extent that we will ultimately be so unsatisfied with the final product that we will one by one cancel our subscriptions as the publications spiral themselves downward out of existence.

Something's got to give, and if we are essentially seeing the beginning of the end this will be tragic and contribute to the further dumbing down of our collective cultures. Will the crossword puzzles be next? Then the comics? I'll draw the line when they do away with coupons!

Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com

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