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25. Imagine all the papers

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The Los Angeles Times is a special case of self-destructive behavior, primordially let loose by the demons within the Chandler family. (Think Greek tragedy.) The condition of newspapers elsewhere in L.A. is better understood as a case of self-cannibalism.

The dailies that serve the ring of cities around Los Angeles are mostly MediaNews Group properties: the Daily Breeze (Torrance), Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario), Daily News (Los Angeles), Pasadena Star-News, Press-Telegram (Long Beach), San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Sun (San Bernardino), Whittier Daily News, and several more. I know the Long Beach Press-Telegram. I grew up reading its afternoon edition.

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Formerly the flagship of the Ridder chain, the Press-Telegram played the same role in Long Beach and its suburbs that the Los Angeles Times played in all of Los Angeles County. Bluntly, that role was to sell southern California into existence and to ensure that the region "? at all costs "? remained a place where white "folks" would feel comfortable and business interests would be served.

The PT and the LAT were spectacularly successful parts of an industry of promotion that sold the idea of southern California "? the idea that this place was uniquely set aside for white, middle-class, Midwesterners. And having helped sell that powerful idea, the PT and the LAT ran out of ideas in the mid-1970s.

What was left was the value of the on-going newspaper business "? but it was a legacy value located in the habits of aging subscribers and the businesses that advertised to them. Too many of the readers have aged out now, as have too many of the businesses. The result is morbid self-consumption needed to keep pace with diminishing legacy values.

At some point, the worth of a newspaper will lie mostly in its stuff "? its buildings and equipment.

The PT (with most of the MediaNews Group) is making that final passage. The PT sold off its block-long building on Pine Avenue and moved to rented quarters in a nearby office tower (where the paper and its staff have continued to shrink).

It looks like the first big city in southern California to go naked without a daily paper won't be Los Angeles.

The image on this page was taken by Flickr user jojomelons. It was used under a Creative Commons license.

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