Readers' Representative Journal

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Chapter 11 announcement

December 9, 2008 |  4:45 pm

Susan March  of Los Angeles was one reader who responded to the news first announced on Monday: "Given that Sam Zell/Tribune has declared bankruptcy, will I continue to see the L.A. Times on the doorstep each morning?  What is the status of the L.A. Times?" And there was this from Stewart Resmer in Santa Monica: "I cannot imagine my mornings without the newspaper. I don't know what you all will come up with to stay such a leading part of our lives, but let me say, the morning coffee crowd is in your corner."

Others, like Hank Pierson, wrote, "Sooner you fail, the better! You are totally left wing."

Dozens of readers responded with confusion, concern and condemnation to the news that Tribune Co. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection from creditors. Readers received some answers from a note from Publisher Eddy Hartenstein published online on Monday and in the paper Tuesday. Some readers sent financial suggestions; others named specific coverage they didn't like as either the cause or effect of the economic problems.      

Hartenstein's note let readers know that the day-to-day operations won't change as a result of the voluntary bankruptcy filing, so yes, readers will continue to receive the paper and see it on the newsracks around town. Editor Russ Stanton met with senior editors over the course of the day that the filing was announced. He encouraged editors to assure reporters that life in the newsroom (and elsewhere in the building) wouldn't be directly affected. Stanton and Hartenstein emphasized to readers and staffers that The Times continues making money (today's news story says, "Before the bankruptcy filing, the Los Angeles Times projected it would make $100 million this year, down from about $240 million two years ago.").

There's no way to know precisely how many readers have commented to The Times up to this point (transcripts of phone calls to the circulation department take a day or two to make it to the readers' representative office). But as of Tuesday the letters-to-the-editor department and readers' representative office each had received about two dozen e-mails and calls, and some 20 calls had come in to the circulation department as of Monday. Below are some samples.

It is interesting to note that despite the cherished and critical role newspapers have played throughout the history of the world, and notwithstanding the fact that the industry is sinking through no fault of its own, there is no talk of a government bailout to keep newspapers afloat.  Instead, our government chooses to prop up once high-flying financial firms, most of whose leaders looted their companies as they presided over their downfall. When we lose our newspapers, as is certain to occur with many in the months and years to come, we lose a part of our soul, and we become a less-educated people, an ominous trend. I hope that Tribune Company and other newspaper parent entities can find the means to "get well" soon, but I fear the worst.  The decline in the fortunes of the daily newspaper heralds a decline in our society. 
Oren M. Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair, PA

I see that the Los Angeles Times has filed for bankruptcy. This proves two things. Karma is real and there is a God.
Jerry E. Smith
Yorba Linda

Everything we've waited to discover about Sam Zell is revealed in the last paragraph of his letter announcing the bankruptcy:  "... we've reduced costs, gained market share, and laid the groundwork for creating a new business model..."  That he'd rank reducing costs first, above all else, says it all.  So, Mr. Zell, to reduce costs, how's about selling the L.A. Times to local ownership? 
Daniel J. Lubin
Rancho Palos Verdes

It is regrettable that the parent firm of the Los Angeles Times has declared bankruptcy, but hardly a real surprise.  Forget the debt, the paper’s content is the culprit.  Had all the Tribune papers adopted the motto of the famous Chicago department store, “Give the lady what she wants” this may not have happened.  Instead over the past years the paper eliminates: eliminates local news, eliminates magazines, eliminates television listings, and the list goes on.  Indeed there is competition from the internet, but if newspapers would print news the people want and often can’t necessarily find with ease on the internet, they might find readership would increase.
Scott H. Whittle

The bankruptcy filing of media behemoth Tribune Company is something which would have been unthinkable just ten years ago, and it should serve to send a chill up the spine of every devoted American newspaper reader, as it is a shot heard 'round the world in this struggling industry. It is with a great deal of regret that I read about The Los Angeles Times filling for bankruptcy.  Newspapers are an important part of a democracy; and without a well-informed and questioning public, democracy fails.  Every effort should be made to save The Los Angeles Times.  I hope that I can make a simple suggestion towards those ends.  I am a paid subscriber, yet I read The Times online for free.  I do this because your online edition is easier and faster to scan.  I've always felt a little guilty that trees have to be cut down to make the newspaper I read.  Also, recycling takes time.  I for one think the Los Angeles Times should charge a subscription fee for reading The Los Angeles Times online.  I hope you consider this idea.
Arden Rynew
Studio City