Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Don't Care If He Is a "Fervent Dodgers Fan" . . .

You know that friend of yours who is always doing stupid things? The one who is constantly making really dumb decisions? The one who you've actually decided not to bother getting mad at anymore and just to laugh whenever the consequences of that person's mistakes become obvious?

I feel that way about The Los Angeles Times.

I stayed a subscriber after the Times made the switch to a moronic "faster format." And I'm still a subscriber despite their Facebook journalism and sloppy reporting.

But now the Times has done something extra-special idiotic. You can read all about it in "Stanton named editor of the L.A. Times." As the announcement itself tactfully puts it, "Stanton doesn't have the same range of experience as many of his predecessors, who before moving into the editor's chair had won Pulitzer Prizes and other accolades for their own reporting or coverage they supervised." The paper admits that "assignments covering wars or Washington traditionally have been steppingstones to the top job at The Times and other large newspapers."

Look, I have nothing against Stanton personally. I'm a local too and also a "fervent Dodgers fan." And I've never been shot at in Iraq.

But what's amazing to me is that he was picked because of his role in "invigorating its website." The Times has a terrible website, without question the worst of any national newspaper. I suspect that my seventy-five-year old parents who still have dial-up know more about the Internet than Russ Stanton.

Of course, their website has been terrible for a long time, long before Stanton got involved.

For example, Internet subscribers constantly get spam ads from the LA Times in their e-mail inboxes. What's hilarious is that they obviously know nothing about their users based on the ads that arrive. Fine jewelry? Plastic surgery? I am positive that I never clicked through on any items featuring those topics. Here's the particularly funny part: they've never sent me a single electronics ad, even though I shop for gadgets all the time. Clearly, as an online consumer, I'm nothing more than my gender to them.

They also don't properly maintain their "interactive features." For example, one Flash developer showed me all the bugs in website done for a story that received a Pulitzer Prize. Shameful electronic hygiene that indicates that they don't get web development at all.

And they don't have the kind of archiving and tagging power that would make electronic subscribership valuable rather than just representing the hassle of memorizing another password. Come on! You guys must have seen the online version of The New York Times. Why don't you at least have "save" and "share" as options on your stories?

Besides, their online video sucks! It is little more than clips from local news and the AP. Compare that to the kind of smart use of witness journalism coming out of The New York Times or The Washington Post. Today, the LA Times has a weather story, a campus shooting story, a missing persons story, and a story about a car that could drive under water at the top of its video roster. Compare that to the NYTimes "The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto" or WaPo's "Pakistan on the Brink."

And then there was their disastrous experiment with an editorial wiki. OMG.

The new owner of the Times Sam Zell and publisher David Hiller were apparently pleased with the fact that ", the paper's online edition, has been adding readers at about a 20% annualized clip" and credit Russ Stanton with a development that would have taken place without him, given the country's changing literacy habits.

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