with 'journalism' tag

$2 billion for old baggage?

as reported when editor dean baquet was ousted, the los angeles times enjoys a 20% operating profit:

The Los Angeles Times reported that its operating profit margin was 20 percent, higher than that of the average Fortune 500 company.

david geffen made a $2 billion offer for the paper, but all i can do is look at the price tag and think how much more sense it would make to just start a new paper with that. don’t for a big-bang launch, but ramp up the editorial production over a couple of years (web-only, at first). i suspect that if there is room for the los angeles times to grow, there’s no reason that another player couldn’t grow into that space. and both papers would be better for the competition.

if he really wants to leave a legacy, geffen should found a los angeles version of the poynter institute.

maybe they just needed a better map

kevin roderick reports that a fugitive profiled on america's most wanted was captured in downtown los angeles, but a quick check of the given address (street name) on google maps looks a whole lot more like inglewood to me.

hope they don’t uninvite me

the los angeles downtown news took first place, best website (25,000 and above) from the california newspaper publishers association. second place was the palo alto weekly.

i assume this is one of those contests where you only win if you pay to enter. i have to believe there are some weeklies out there in california with websites that are actually interesting.

the first draft of history?

the times building at sunset i’ve been poking around in the historical archives (pre-1985) of the los angeles times. here’s an interesting factoid: “los angeles was the first city in the united states to entirely abandon gas for street lighting and replace it by electricity, which was done january 1, 1888.”

and here’s a great blurb from the august 10, 1886 “briefs” column: “officer fonck brought in a man, last night, from los angeles street, who was dead drunk, and so filthy that it caused the officer to lose his four-bit dinner.”

one of the reasons i’ve been digging around is that in this obituary for james pulliam, i noticed that the writer claimed there was some renovation of the central library that was completed in 1987. i thought this was obviously wrong, because the two fires in the central library were in 1986, and the renovation of the library was not completed until 1993. looking at the articles where pulliam is quoted in 1979, they are about a renovation project that was never done. charles luckman, another los angeles architect, had proposed a renovation that would have added two new wings to the library, and had elevators in the central rotunda. the city council killed that plan in september 1979, and plans for the renovation that did happen did not start to gel until a few years later.

the person with the times who first responded to my correction appears to be on vacation for a few days, so maybe they’ll correct the obituary after my latest volley. (or not, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a very big deal.)

this piece in the new york times looks at how people appear on the news are getting out their side of the story, and one thing it astutely points out is that an advantage that organizations like the discovery institute or people like me have is that our content doesn’t disappear inside a pay-for-access archive after a few weeks. for the foreseeable future, you’ll be able to come back to this entry to see what i’ve said. this article is something i linked to in the los angeles times almost five years ago (here). the link doesn’t even offer to sell me the article, it just wants me to contact their archive department who may or may not be able to figure out what the article actually was. as a counter-example, here’s a new york times article where i’m offered an archive copy of the article. and here’s an even older one that is still freely available.

new to the database field

“Sleepycat employs a lot of database people with, like, 25 years of experience,” [Josh] Berkus [evangelism guy for PostgreSQL] said. “One problem MySQL has is that most database people working there are new to the database field.”

that is a laughable statement that simply demonstrates that josh has little insight into the breadth and depth of experience of the mysql development team. it includes a number of developers with long experience in the database industry and recognized experts in the database field. the jokers like me who just brought a non-database background to their jobs are not representative of the whole development team. i can understand why josh got it so wrong, though. those of us who came through the open-source community tend to be more visible in that community.

the quote comes from this eweek opinion piece by lisa vaas about how mysql may re-team with sleepycat. and this doesn’t mean that lisa is right, but the timing of her piece and this announcement from sleepycat about their latest version is pretty funny.

and if richard mason got taken out to the woodshed for what he said, it is probably because “replace” is the wrong word to use. un-factual, as one might say. and i can’t imagine it was a very unpleasant trip to the woodshed considering how well his european sales team has been doing.

like always, seeing something in the press about things you have first-hand knowledge about is a good way to remind you how wrong the press often is, and how skeptically you should treat it.

yesterday’s news is a brilliant blog from the minneapolis star-tribune which highlights old items from their archives. it’s a brilliant idea that every newspaper should adopt. especially the los angeles times.

it sounds like the star tribune doesn’t have its archive digitized, and the blog’s writer is working from microfilm. you can access the archives of the los angeles times going back to 1898 online (but only from the central library), and back to 1986 from anywhere.

i wonder what it would take to get the archives of some of defunct newspapers of los angeles online, like the los angeles herald-examiner and its predecessors. the library has it on microfilm. but you can’t really do a full-text search of microfilm. (what would be ideal is images of the pages and plain-text of each of the articles. pulling out clean text of articles is obviously a lot more work than just doing an optical-character recognition job on the page images to do a by-page full-text index.)

tony pierce wrote up his experience from last night’s politics of science journalism panel so i think that means i don’t have to. it was entertaining.

the los angeles press club is hosting a panel on the politics of science journalism tonight. conveniently located near the vermont and sunset red line station.

los angeles downtown news confirms what i had questioned in the article from the los angeles times about the sheriff’s department “dumping” of someone near the midnight mission: “Ward, the Midnight Mission spokesman, confirmed that the single-file line often stretches to Seventh and San Pedro streets.”

other interesting bits of news:

also, pete’s got a review in the times, although it is a pretty goofy review.

scoop by evelyn waugh is a comedy set against the backdrop of journalism in 1930s england. it’s a little bit of mistaken identity, some fish-out-of-water, and a fair heaping of clueless bumbling. it has bits and turns of phrases that are very funny, but overall it drags.

last night i went to an event at the central library put on by the greater los angeles chapter of the society of professional journalists, a panel discussion on “ethics and entertainment journalism.”

there were only about two dozen people in the audience, and five on stage, but it was a good panel discussion, and managed to go on for nearly two hours. there were five panelists: a news director from e! entertainment television (who admitted that sometimes she thought about getting out of the business because of the direction it is headed), the west coast editor for playboy (responsible for booking celebrity covers and centerfolds), a former reporter for us weekly, an associate los angeles bureau chief for people, and a reporter for the los angeles times.

something that struck me as i left the event was that on the whole, the ethical issues the panel talked about were being handled pretty responsibly (at least as they told it). while it seems like entertainment and especially celebrity journalism is where you would see the most compromises, i can’t think of instances where it has failed as utterly as the business press did in covering the dotcom bubble or the national press does in covering just about everything political (like the justification for the war in iraq, for example).

something that didn’t really come up at all is how online journalism fits into the picture, although the woman from people made a comment about how today’s writers for gawker and defamer may be the editors of tomorrow’s spy and then eventually an editor at time. i’d say that as things are going, tomorrow’s spy and time are going to be online. it remains to be seen whether those publications will “come down” from the printed world, or be born on the net.

(i originally spotted the event over on la observed. i’m such a sucker for excuses to go to the library.)

not journalists

boing boing passes on ross mayfield’s report that the number of books you can carry on to planes will be (and is) limited. this is the sort of case where a journalist would do something tedious like contact the tsa and actually find out what the reality is, rather than relying on second-hand information that originated from a screener.

i think it is pretty clear that the policy is in regard to books of matches, regardless of ross’s impression of what the screener was talking about.

this is the sort of thing that undermines the bloggers-as-journalists argument.

more than 75 emails

i always like when someone throws out a number that is apparently designed to impress, but really seems rather pathetic in comparison to something else. like this washington post ombudsman piece about the response to an article about declining circulation. over 75 emails, letters, and phone calls! here’s a /. posting about apple getting a favorable ruling in its case against mac daily news that has nearly 700 comments.