The long, slow death of an institution

From the New York Times comes word that the Los Angeles Times is continuing its long, slow decline into mediocrity:

The Los Angeles Times will announce long-rumored changes to its book review coverage next weekend, a spokeswoman for the paper said on Tuesday. According to a report in Publishers Weekly, next Sunday will be the last time the paper runs a stand-alone book review section.

As a native-born Angeleno, I've seen the L.A. Times at its best, and lately at its worst. I remember my dad always read Jack Smith's column, just as I never miss Steve Lopez's. But I'm watching it slowly decline into a mere shadow of its former self. They've killed the Religion section, the county-specific sections, and fired reporters. They tried to get rid of Al Martinez, who's kind of an institution at the Times. They've made the Sunday magazine monthly, and toyed with the idea of turning it over to the advertising staff. They've taken what was once a quality newspaper and emasculated it, and one wonders where the end is or what form it will take.

My wife and I subscribe, and at $44.40 every two months, it used to be a bargain. We'd probably pay twice that for a better newspaper. But with every cut they make, that $44.40 begins to look like less of a deal. Little by little, my favorite sections are being killed off, and I'm not so sure anymore why I'm subscribing. It would be more understandable if it was losing money, but it's not--it's just not profitable enough to suit the suits at the Tribune Co.

I tried the Kindle edition briefly, but it was so shoddily put together that I canceled my trial subscription. I get the New York Times every morning, and the difference in quality--both of the reporting and editing--is noticeable. Electronic distribution is the future of the newspaper industry; you'd think the L.A. Times would take it more seriously. But, apparently, they haven't figured that out yet.