Exit Dean Baquet

I'm sorry to see Dean Baquet lose his job as editor of the Los Angeles Times. I take no joy in the wholesale restructuring of the newspaper business that I see unfolding before us. But it's real, it's necessary and it's driven by economic and technological change beyond our control. This is not the result of evil owners and management conspiring against the good guys, and making speeches about how editors need to stand up against an "irrational era of cost-cutting" is not helping.

We need editors to stop blaming their bosses and help figure out what successful surviving newspapers will look like in five years. They may be smaller, and certainly newsrooms will be smaller, but that doesn't mean they won't be good and possibly great, or that they won't perform their public mission. They will be different. Get over that and focus on making the best difference possible.

Jeff Jarvis wrote something recently that I think helps point the way: "If I ran a chain like Gannett or McClatchy (no thanks), I’d consolidate or outsource all kinds of editing. ... if you don’t want to go to the expense of having a business section, if it’s not core to what you do, then you can link to one. And that forces you to decide what is core. What is it that just you can do and that can’t be outsourced?"

This concept of "core" is a stumbling block. I don't know how many times I've heard someone at a meeting drone on about "our core competency." If our core competency is delivering a product or service that's obsolete, then we'd better change that competency, and damned fast before we run out of capital. So the problem is to rethink that core and identify the parts where we create unique value. Does anybody actually believe that every one of the Los Angeles Times' nearly 1,000 journalism staffers creates unique value? Trivial example: This morning latimes.com is leading with a staff-written national election roundup that could have been ripped from the wire. Outsource what you can outsource.


Outsourcing what you can won’t save enough money to save this industry. Even if the entire business staff is replaced with wire copy, we’re not talking about a lot of money saved in salaries. It’s unfortunate that the only method the newspaper industry knows for saving money is cutting people or content.

As we all know, the real cost of any newspaper is printing it.

This industry needs forward-thinkers like Steve and others to sit down and seriously consider ideas for becoming more efficient printers. How can we stop sending thousands of newspaper sections to customers who throw them in the trash?

When any group of reporters and editors get together in a room and are asked by some trainer or consultant to predict what the future of newspapers looks like in 10 years, they all mention some level of personalization. Problem is they’ve been mentioning personalization for 10 years already.

Zoning By Interest” is overdue and can be done now. Nevermind that Zoning By Interest can save millions of dollars while also making it less costly to take risks on new products.

Could the newspaper of the future be an incubator of innovative products? Only if it doesn’t cost so darn much to print them.