Friday, June 22, 2018

1960 High Times

We’ve seen this before and sometimes it works. Major moneybags take over a once-great newspaper and revive it.  Where it didn’t work: The Orange County Register.  Where it has, at least so far: The Washington Post and the Boston Globe.

Now a billionaire doctor-owner of a high tech California company is giving the Los Angeles Times a shot at getting off the deathbed and walking out of the hospice on its own.

We’ve already had plenty to say about the new owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (see link below) and the fine work Otis Chandler of the dysfunctional Chandler family (see other link below) did to Make the LAT Great Again.  (It worked, unlike some other “Make… Great’s of our acquaintance.)

No, today we’ll talk about three things.  The building, the new top editor and the staff.

First, the building, an art deco monstrosity the paper has occupied since 1935, the year “It Happened One Night” with Gable and Colbert won the Academy Award for Best Picture down the block and around the corner.

The paper is moving to a new “campus,” as they now call corporate sprawl on open land these days. The remaining staff will have to get used to things they don’t expect at work: telephones made in this century, air conditioning and hot water that work on the same day.  And no trace of previous owner, Tronc, which sounds the name of someone who emerges from a flying saucer and destroys the Chicago Tribune, which is exactly what happened.

The new editor is Norm Pearlstein who has played in some of America’s classiest journalistic pool rooms including Time, Inc. (twice) and Forbes and the Wall Street Journal. He even did a cameo as Bloomberg’s Chief Content Officer which neither he nor anyone else know what it was.

Pearlstein acted as adviser to Dr. Soon-Shiong in his search for talent.  An “adviser” different from a “consultant” in that he only borrows your watch and charges to tell you the time, instead of stealing it.  Dr. S got his watch back and decided after getting turned down by the major-ist editors in modern newspaperdom that Pearlstein suggested and hired Pearlstein who is 75 years old, knows the ropes and will recruit the talent to the Times in ways they’ll be able to wear red baseball hats with “Great Again” on them and mean it.

Which brings us to the staff.  Usually reporters are skeptical of new owners.  If that’s the case here, it’s pretty hard to detect.  Even the head of the reporters’ union likes the idea.  They’re welcome his arrival with celebrations.

Pearlstein says he wants to attract major talent to the sprawling region of Los Angeles.  And surely he will. He also will look for sick wood among present staffers.  There’s no actual deadwood left, but there are enough vacancies to populate “America’s Most Wanted” for three seasons.

So, rack-em-up and let Norm do is magic.  It may be Hollywood, but the tricks may be real, not illusions.
And let’s hope high times remain.

For context, you may want to look at our previous post about the Times, here

And an earlier one here

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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