Against the Grain: The Fall of the L.A. Times?

[Editor's Note: This is a partial transcript of Against the Grain, a radio show hosted and co-produced by C.S. Soong and produced by Sasha Lilley. Against the Grain airs Monday through Wednesday on Pacifica Radio station KPFA 94.1 in Berkeley, Calif. This show originally aired on February 22, 2006, and is available as a podcast from KPFA.org.]

C.S. Soong: This is Against the Grain on Pacifica Radio and online at KPFA.org. Today's topic: the viability of newspapers and the future of the Internet. Later in the program we'll talk with the director of the Center for Digital Democracy about plans by corporate interests to turn the Internet into what he calls "a turbo-charged digital retail machine."

But first, one former insider's take on what's happened to the Los Angeles Times. Not too long ago, the L.A. Times was enormously popular, did extensive investigative reporting, and racked up prestigious awards, including 13 Pulitzers under editor-in-chief John Carroll. But an accumulation of forces, says my guest today, have conspired to downsize and otherwise imperil the Times; one key event was the acquisition of the newspaper by the Chicago-based Tribune Company five years ago.

Since then, pressures to downsize the paper's staff have increased; the firing last November of longtime progressive columnist Robert Scheer is just one example. Steve Wasserman is another ex-employee. For nearly a decade Wasserman was editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review; he also served as deputy editor of the paper's Op-Ed page and its Sunday Opinion section. Steve Wasserman joins us now from New York City. Welcome.

Let's first talk about the pre-Tribune Company L.A. Times, and I want to take you back to the period of the 60s and 70s -- how was the paper doing at that time, and what was its reputation?

Steve Wasserman: Of course, one has to to begin by saying that for much of its history, when it was founded 125 years ago by Harrison Grey Otis, the paper was one of the worst papers in the entire country -- well known, and indeed notorious for its yellow journalism and the ways in which it backed almost every corrupt practice in Los Angeles.

The rest of this episode of Against the Grain is available for download from AlterNet and by podcast from KPFA.org.

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