Unsurprisingly, Dean Baquet announced to staff at the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that he had been forced to resign by owners, the Tribune Company, over his refusal to cut editorial staff. He stood on his desk to tell journalists:
I don’t want to dwell on the last month. I want to think broader. I want to think about the last six years. I want people to think about the Pulitzers. You’ve got to keep making the paper better.
Staff cuts are now inevitable with long-time Tribune company man James O’Shea being flown in from Chicago where he is managing editor of the Tribune to take charge.
I am with Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine when he says of Baquet: “Rather than pushing to preserve the past, he should have been pushing his bosses to be investing in the future.”
Who would want to be an editor now as traditional certainties about the job crash around you, circulation and revenue shrinks and you need to spend on making an impact online?
You can stick to the traditional and manage the profitable decline of a mature business, which is appealing to many of the money men. Or you can fight for the investment to reinvent the publication for the new era. You also have to persuade the investors that they should think long-term which is always difficult.
But I can’t agree with Jarvis that the future is always “hyperlocal” (a Google site search of his Buzzmachine blog returns 2,260 uses) which he suggests for the LA Times. There is too much uncertainty around to be prescriptive about solutions. Some newspapers, including The Times and the Guardian in the UK, are taking the global route.
Not everyone can become a global player but my instinct tells me that a variety of approaches are going to work. It is time to continue experimenting.