Hope Springs Eternal for the L.A. Times Editorial Board

Hope springs eternal for the future of the journalism whenever I eat at Tomboy’s Burgers. It’s not only the gloriously greasy burgers and hearty, artery-clogging breakfasts that draw me to Manhattan Beach a couple of weekends a month. It’s the Los Angeles Times and the off chance that those who produce it will wake up and give what should be a great paper new life.

bankruptcy-722024Only a matter of time now

I only read the Times at Tomboy’s, and I can only do so because there is usually a forlorn copy of it lying between the hot sauce and utensils. My subscription lapsed years ago–I’m a casualty of the Times’s limp writing and consistent lefty spin–but something inside me still hopes to one day open up that paper and once again find something worth reading. That did not happen on New Year’s Day. Not by a longshot.

On New Year’s Day, the Times’s lead editorial was its annual 40 or so “Wishes for the New Year.” It was truly thought provoking, except the thought that was provoked was, “who the hell writes this stuff?”

The modern newsroom has evolved from a den of streetwise hacks with little formal education and a taste for booze and broads – guys who knew how to wear a hat – into the neutered, smug, PC clubhouses of today. How else to explain this tepid, tiresome and out-of-touch roster of lefty fantasies and stultifying conventional wisdom? An eight-year-old would weep to read this jejune tripe.

The reflexive liberalism of the Times has been well-documented by fellow L.A. lawyer Patrick Frey of Patterico’s Pontifications, but this is not a complaint about yet another dying liberal op-ed page preaching to a bare, ruined choir loft. The real problem is the editors’ utter detachment from the reality of the very people the Times imagines it serves and who are hemorrhaging from its circulation lists. The “journalists” – really, interchangeable J-school grads who know next to nothing about the city in which they live – dwell in their own time and universe, and simply cannot, or will not comprehend that big, scary, and above all real place that is the Hobbesian world.

250px-Leviathan_grSolitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short

For example, who among us thinks the Times’s readers share the editors’ wish that politicians will take action in 2010 to reduce the inmate population? California has plenty of problems, but having too many criminals in jail – and not crawling in your bedroom window after midnight – is hardly one of them. Similarly, I’m not sure how their wish for the closure of Guantanamo Bay in favor of incarceration here squares with a measured reduction in prison population. I mean, the editors could not be suggesting that we just let the detainees go. Could they?

Then there’s the snark aimed at the “global warming deniers,” and a wish for “a climate bill that puts a price on carbon emissions, a critical step in preventing a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.” Perhaps I missed the groundswell of support for onerous new taxes based on flimsy pseudo-science that the Times has uncovered. I must have been distracted by my nostalgia for a media that once questioned authority – especially when it is crystal clear that so many in authority are using the “climate change” scam to line their pockets.

The same is true of the wish for a new state tax on oil – yeah, your dwindling subscribers are clamoring for yet another levy. Gas is way too cheap.

Then there is the editors’ fervent wish that everyone would just sit down and agree to the conventional left-of-center wisdom they wholeheartedly embrace. Heaven forbid that in 2010 California experience anything but a “civil, not-too-costly, not-too-pandering race for governor.” Remember that, when used in a Times editorial, “civil” means “don’t point out the liberal’s failures.” The phrase “no too costly” means “let’s limit the Republicans’ advertising spending so the lavish, slobbering free coverage we provide the opponent will be that much more effective.” Finally, the term “not-too-pandering” means, “and certainly don’t think of talking about issues that excite conservatives.”

If you wish for wit, you probably want to skip their wish that “Cheney… return to a secure, remote location.” They would need to wish themselves back to 2002 for that to be clever. I’m always leery of amateurs trying to be funny, and normally I’d just suggest that these newspaper folks keep their day jobs, but in this case, well, you know…

sleeping reportersShhhh… reporters at work

I can help them with their wish for a “smart, funny sitcom.” Tune into NBC on Thursday nights starting at 8:00 p.m. You journalists should appreciate how our championing of the non-political work of liberal stars like 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin demonstrates our commitment to diversity. But if you check out The Goode Family on Comedy Central, its skewing of progressive sacred cows might make you cry.

Journalists, hear me before its too late. Get out into the real world. Challenge your own preconceived notions. Find a guy who you think probably disagrees with you about everything – an American flag sticker on his car is a good indicator – and listen to him. Don’t judge, don’t condescend – hear him out. You don’t have to agree, but that’s not your job.

If you want a future where you won’t hear things like, “Hold the pickles,” or, “Top it off, my good man,” you’d better start being able to relate to the people whose time, attention and money you’re looking to capture. For too long, journalists have evaded the iron discipline of the market that their freelance comrades know only too well. They sit in a big building, type up words, and every two weeks they get a paycheck whether their product is good, bad or pure commie propaganda. That’s all changed – thanks to that hated Internet, you fellows have gone from necessity to option. You have to earn your readers these days. And, even worse, you have to work to keep them.

As is becoming a personal ritual, that well-thumbed copy of the Times went right back on the pile as I left Tomboy’s, an act that brought me no joy. I want a paper that challenges me, not bores me. That informs me, not lectures me. I want a paper that understands the world I live in, not the one imagined at UC Berkeley and the other ivory towers that the Times’s staff never mentally left. I don’t care if its editors are liberal as long as I have to turn to the op-ed page before I know it.

If I could get those things, then I might read the Times between my visits to Tomboy’s. And so might a lot of other people. But until then, their final wish – “A spike in newspaper circulation” – will just be wishful thinking.


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