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Saturday Evening Post

Not looking good...

I have seen enough, and vote no confidence in both LA newsguy Jim Newton's LA Times and LA visitor Carolina Garcia's Daily News.

For these papers to have a chance of survival beyond the decade's end, they'll have to find new editors for these positions, and on their op-ed pages as well.

The main reason both Newton and Garcia are failing is that they are too much in awe of, and beholden to, local power. They're both from the grubby side of the paper, local news, never a good conversion for oversight. And they lack the qualities that it takes to value great editorial judgment: more hectoring and scolding even while insulated and diva-ish, the prince and princessy qualities it takes for a great opinion or editorial writer to speak truth to power.

It's the flip side of the reason the Downtown News and the LA Weekly are hanging so tough through the tough times: their top editors aren't awed by power at all. If you read this blog, you already know Jill's work at the Weekly; Tom Christie doesn't back down much from a fight either, and he does indeed on occasion whine like a princess; but witness the way Jon Regardie slammed the Mayor's third seedy episode of Sex in the City last week. Regardie has been not-so-quietly on the Mayor's back for well over a year, and Jill for even longer. Nobody in the editorial departments at the Times or Daily News have done as good a job of hammering the Mayor as the weeklies have, even though the weeklies have far fewer resources available to them than the two top eds at the quotidian print castles.

The people at the Times and Daily News only tepidly disapprove of LA's devolution during the Villaraigosa era; and they have done so after looking both ways and checking with every crossing guard on the street. They have offered no alternatives, and both papers have followed the suggestion I sent to them in an op-ed in March, subsequently encouraging the Mayor not to run for Governor. Ironically, the town's two dailies are more dependably of service to the Mayor than either of the Mayor's glam girlfriends in broadcast media have been.

And of course the two papers have failed to show any real imagination when covering the Mayor even on the news side. They've forgotten to check into how he can practice his stated Catholic faith after two affairs while married and after performing both gay and lesbian marriages; conversely, with another Catholic mayor, Richard Riordan, they even reported the fact that he couldn't take communion in the Catholic Church (Newton greenlighted that story). They haven't documented his utter decline in popularity polls; and they famously did not even mention the names of rival candidates for Mayor on their op-ed pages in the run-up to the last election.

It is no accident that Regardie and Stewart's publications are hanging tough while Newton's and Garcia's are not: both editors, Regardie and Stewart, have the kinds of backgrounds that enable them to distance themselves from, rather than gape at, say, Eli Broad's beach house or Geoff Palmer's empirical BH estate. In short, they aren't as easy to impress as Jim and Carolina seem to be when in charge of things.

Among the public, even diehards who continue to support the oversexed Mayor and his media props have to do so while pinching their noses now. But the second grand reason the Times and the Daily News are failing is because the papers have written off their editorial and op-ed pages to people whose jobs are mere placeholders. When that part of the paper is more vital, the proles may even become riled. The fact that these two opinion pages are so cautious is the reason so many find it increasingly easy dismiss these papers wholesale.

Ed Padgett reported this past week that the Times total Sunday circ (including newsstands) last week dropped to under a million for the first time since the 1960's. Verily, the paper has its reward for starting off the decade devoting tons of ink to unseating Jim Hahn and to two ongoing soap opera that absolutely nobody cared about: Anthony Pellicano and Doug Dowie. Meanwhile, the LAUSD has been called both the region's greatest economic engine and greatest kleptocracy, and yet there has been scant serious talk about it by the editorial lightweights that these papers bring to their readers.

It may be that the Times folds even before the Daily News, but right now it's just a bewildering, melancholy, limpid race to the finish.