Covering The Newspaper Business

Matt Welch says the media is missing what's interesting about The Los Angeles Times in the Sam Zell era:

1) Despite the persistent fever dreams of Nikki Finke and the newsroom, who yearned for a benevolent local billionaire hero to deliver them from evil, Sam Zell was literally the only person willing to make a bet on a beleaguered newspaper company. People love to mock how little skin he had in the game–infamously, just $315 million of an $8.2 billion purchase–but that in itself is a telling indicator of just how unattractive these properties are. Zell's failure (and the immediate cultural hostility with which he was greeted) limits the ownership options for companies that don't have very many left.

2) There isn't a single management team that Spring Street hasn't despised since the (over-)sainted Otis Chandler exited the scene three decades ago.

If I had a dollar for every word written in the Columbia Journalism Review about the malodorous new publisher of the L.A. Times, well, I probably wouldn't be writing blog posts on Wednesday nights!

3) And the most undercovered L.A. Times media story of all? The paper, as Brian Doherty, Katherine Mangu-Ward, and even a reluctant Tim Cavanaugh have all recently noted here, has been bringing it of late, plunging into real and impactful tough-nosed coverage of local power structures, while taking the whole "website that publishes a newspaper" thing seriously enough that both traffic and quality have grown through the roof.

The stories on corruption in Bell, California are long overdue, but first rate.