Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Love the Smell of Newsprint in the Morning . . . It Smells Like Victory?

Whatever results are announced late tonight or tomorrow, this election has certainly provided an indictment on The Los Angeles Times, which has completely ceded the ground on political journalism for the West Coast to the twenty-four hour cable news cycle and periodicals with viable web presences that manage to create stories that merit circulation in the blogosphere.

Firing most of the staff of their editorial section was probably the beginning of the end, but the decline has continued throughout the presidential race. After a week incongruously devoted to covering a multipart series about gangsters in 1930s noir LA, perhaps to promote a certain big box office film, the bizarre dissociation of the newspaper from the electoral process didn't slow down even as the polls opened.

Today's paper featured cover stories with big photos showing scantily clad models in hotel windows and brothel prostitutes pimping for johns. I saw more substantive coverage of the state's controversial anti-gay marriage initiative, Proposition 8, on cable news channels and the online editions of East Coast newspapers than I did in the paper that lands on my stoop each morning.

It's true that the candidates probably could have done more to support print culture, and it is unconscionable if there is any truth to the Reuters item picked up from the Drudge Report that reporters from newspapers that had not endorsed Obama were forced to give up their seats on the plane to those who had. How sad at the end of the trail to see the Obama campaign fundamentally violate the public trust in precisely the way that they have criticized the sitting president for surrounding himself with lackeys in the press. (Please not, however, that one of the papers involved, The Dallas Morning News, reports that the story is more complicated.)

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