by Ari Simon
Yo New York Times, let's talk about your headline in which you call Los Angeles a "City That Never Quite Came Together" as a means of evaluating the recent tumultuous and frustrating failures of the LA Times.
There's plenty to write about regarding the LA Times' institutional underperformance, its organizational fiascoes, and its frequent lack of meaningful community reflection and engagement. Though these issues are not unique to the LA Times; they're reflected in media institutions across the nation that claim to reflect a city's communities while being bought, owned, and controlled from far outside the heart of the region. As the internet further alters our abilities to disseminate local information, investment in regionally-based journalism outlets has declined.
Not only does this article neglect to address this, it offers less than a paragraph to even reference what it sees as the LA Times' current ills. Instead, it uses the flimsy premise of a failing LA Times to underscore a host of other issues it sees with Los Angeles' "absence of progress" due to its lack of centralization and unity. Yes, LA is hardly a very centralized region, and its own unique model can certainly be dissected and critiqued.
But the article shrouds LA Times as not long ago having been "a civic leader," praising it as "a paper with international prestige that helped set the conversation every morning here." Why then is Los Angeles – a region long progressing with its own story, style, and systems – to blame for the paper's recent struggles? It feels sloppy and rather top-down to throw Los Angeles under the bus for what an article about the LA Times should be about: mismanagement by its Chicago-based ownership Tribune Media, shitty men abusing their power, and a difficult ecosystem for regional newspaper outlets across the globe, to name a few.
Here are some other responses to the article as written by commenters on NYTimes.com:
This article is off on on several fronts. The entire premise - making the newspaper some sort of parable or metaphor for the city as a whole - is misguided.
First of all, LA is not an "eastern establishment" city. The LA of today, the "metropolis" that it is, is a modern (i.e. 20th century) city. Here it doesn't matter what your family name is, who you are, where you came from. LA was built by people coming here with a dream and trying to make a go at it. It's a spirited western town that has grown (and matured) into a liberal, educated, cultural urban center. The writers of this article are stuck in an old NYC image of LA as a cultural void, spread out, no core, no heart, etc.
Angelenos don't worship the rich (although we do put Hollywood on a bit of a pedestal, but that's another debate). We don't worship oligarchs like Bloomberg, Trump, Helmsley, et al. It's a different place. Much more of an egalitarian place.
When you write about LA, and all but one of your sources is white and old, you inevitably portray an incomplete picture of our city. I'm more worried about the closing of LAist and the evisceration of the LA Weekly than the decline of the LAT. Where's your discussion of KPCC or our Spanish language media (our highest rated local television news programs)? When discussing civic engagement, how can you ignore new institutions like CicLAvia or Night on Broadway? Please stop relying on outdated stereotypes about our region.
If there was ever an article figuratively whistling past the graveyard, it’s this one. The issue isn’t a city adrift, it’s the fact that traditional media is expendable in a digital world. LA is a harbinger, not the outlier.