Enter Brunehilde, stage right

aS I WAS finishing an entry about the new L.A. Times front page, the fat lady in Chicago stepped onto the stage and began, as predicted, to sing. That is to say, the Tribune, through its new publisher in Los Angeles, fired Dean Baquet, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, even as the empire continued to fall into pieces.

It was not what you would call a full-throated voice. The Dean announcement was leaked, and then hurriedly released on election day, not a good day to disrupt newsrooms. It was the cracking voice of the opera singer in Citizen Kane, the Marion Davies character, except that she had no talent. Tribune Company, headquartered in its famous Raymond Hood tower, about a mile away from Samuel Insull's Lyric Opera House (Orson Welles'  inspiration for the scene), seems unaware the libretto is a tragedy. Like Kane, like Insull, like McCormick, like Chandler, their empires are doomed ultimately to fall.

Before the Chicago managing editor dispatched to run the Los Angeles Times has a chance to save it (or ruin it), Tribune Company is likely to be sold for scrap. Rumors emerged from the Tower simultaneously with the news about Dean: the company was not happy with the bids for the whole enterprise and was now contemplating selling off the business units one or two at a time.

And that is of course the text of this miserable aria. The executives are all marching toward their own Valhalla, while we are glance nervously at our watches.

Dean Baquet leaves as a hero. He got the Page One redesign into the paper just in time, so he is my own personal hero. But he is a great editor and has played a significant historical role. His defiance over cost-cutting was a reprise of a similar swan song by the publisher at the San Jose Mercury News, which signaled the beginning of the end of Knight Ridder.

Both took the stand that you can't make a great newspaper without a great staff.

Let us hope a new owner, like Eli Broad, can take possession while Dean's staff is still on the stage.

Your Thoughts (2 comments)

2006-11-13 by Brendon

why is the headline usage not consistent

Roger, As an L.A. resident since April 2000, it's been interesting to see the Los Angeles Times look change -- I like the cleaner look of new front page headlines (and I'm sure there are other design tweaks I'm not even noticing) but what I'm wondering is this: why is there a san-serif headline at the top of the front page, but on the remaining sections (Business, Sports etc.) everything looks the same -- it's a bit incongruous to me. And it goes without saying that the ownership saga will be interesting to watch playout -- I just hope that whomever takes over (Broad, Geffen etc.) doesn't influence the already-excellent quality of the writing and coverage in the Time's pages. Best regards, -Brendon Macaraeg

2006-11-26 by Roger Black

It’s just not done yet

The Titling Gothic heads used on the front page and occasionally on the Calendar section front indicate the lede story. The reason that California, Business and Sports don't use the Gothic is that the new typography still hasn't tricked down to those sections. But it was planned for early 2007. I totally agree with your judgement of the quality of the paper---and with your hope that they can hold on to it!

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