I canceled my subscription to the Los Angeles Times today. I'd been thinking about it for a while but today's edition (Sunday, April 5th) pushed me over the edge.
First of all, I have to admit I love newspapers. I grew up reading the New York Times, which was delivered in the morning and the liberal New York Post my father brought home from work at night. Moving to Los Angeles thirty years ago, one of the first things I did was buy a subscription to the LA Times. I loved the quiet time leafing through the pages, the opinion pieces, the local news and letters to the editor, Calendar (The Arts and Entertainment section), and especially pouring over the huge sports section.
We'd spend hours every Sunday morning, lounging around the living room, swapping the travel and magazine sections, the extra large Calendar and sports section and enjoying the calmness the ritual would bring.
Not anymore. On the front page today was a profile of a woman with a deformed face. Not that there is anything wrong with a profile like that, but it took up more than half the front page. No mention of Obama in Europe or the NATO talks. I'm sure they could have shrunk the typeface on "Ana's Story" and fit another two articles in, but they chose not to.
The front page of the Sunday Calendar section, which used to be a "must read" for people in the industry was taken up by a three-quarters page cartoon and lead for an article about extras in Hollywood. A piece which years ago might have made page fifteen, took over all but the right column. Another waste of space.
Finally the straw that broke the camel's back. The Sunday sports section. On the day after the Final Four games were played, a day before the baseball season opens, when the Lakers are gearing up for the playoffs and USC is trying to figure out who their quarterback will be, this was the front page of the sports section. Two leads about the Final Four games and a column about horse racing. That's it, folks. The rest of the page was taken up with a large ad and a huge color cartoon of a Dodger and an Angel crawling somewhere. Beats me where they're crawling to. Home plate? A finish line? Who cares? But it took up at least half the page. It trumpeted their "Baseball: 2009" coverage which consisted of some local coverage, barely any mention of the other teams in the league and lots and lots of very large pictures. It was pathetic. The Sunday Los Angeles Times, which used to take a minimum of two hours to read, took me nineteen minutes today.
This afternoon I went to the annual local arts fair held in the neighborhood. There was a booth for home delivery of the New York Times. I made a beeline and signed up. As I filled out the paper work at least a dozen people stopped by to inquire and complain about the LA Times. Nobody likes the LA Times. It's become an embarrassment, like someone who wears an obvious toupee. They think they're fooling people but they look even worse. If it weren't for the slim sports section and the movie schedules, the paper would be history. Oh and did I mention that since they switched to cheaper ink, I can't read the paper without sneezing?
This is nothing against the excellent writers who still toil for the LA Times. It's not their fault that gross mismanagement has destroyed their work. Did I feel guilty canceling the local paper? Sure. I'm cutting off a once vital link to my city. But did the Tribune Company feel guilty when they slashed the budgets and destroyed a grand and powerful cornerstone of the city? I doubt it. I simply cannot justify paying the money they charge for such an inferior product.
Well, I guess I'll start DVRing the local news to see what's happening in town. (It's still not worth it to miss Keith Olbermann at 5 or "The Daily Show" at 11.) If we want to go to a movie, I'll check the Internet. For sports I'll check online and ESPN. Problem solved.
This was a lifelong habit I never wanted to break, but Sam Zell and company forced my hand. It's just sad how corporate greed has destroyed even the little pleasures in life.
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