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Degrees of difficulty

I mentioned Tony Pierce yesterday, but I otherwise don't know that I should say very much about the recent round of Times layoffs. Suffice it to say that anyone who has read me for any length of time knows that I think the Times op-ed page has been a mess since at least the early-zeroes, and so has the Times Book Review. But after a day, we start watching the departures like dives off the 10 meter board: this one handled it and gets a 6.0, that one made a huge ugly splash and gets a 2.8.

One I would give a 6.0: Jane Engle has been an LA Press Club stalwart in addition to a patient writer and will be much missed.

All in all, however, I am always surprised by the sense of entitlement many journalists reveal when laid off. Humility is typically cast far far aside as they have been separated from the frame that handed them the ability to reach half a million eyeballs just for showing up. They all seem certain of another thing too: it's the Times that changed for the worse, it's not that they failed to change with the times. I think the latter is more often true of most, both laid off and retained.

One thing I hear from other editors not at the Times, is this: there are too many choices, so readers don't automatically come to you, you have to go out and find your readers. That's definitely true in the twenty-teens, and as the environment becomes all the more competitive, the more urgently writers and editors need to locate precisely the readers who might be interested to read them.

In tough times, editors cut from the bottom up before they cut from the middle down; but eventually they do cut the middle too if they have to go deep enough to make it work for the hectoring publisher. The whole madness for clicks is a farce--advertisers are certainly figuring out by now that a one-second click isn't worth even a hundredth as much as a two-minute click. The fact is, most of us are already getting along without the Times, and nicely. Its next mission is not how to game the clicks, but how to become relevant to the civic life of everyone from Santa Barbara to San Juan Capistrano again.