Whoa. We all know the Tribune Company and its biggest paper, the LA Times, are in trouble. But this seems drastic even for them: the paper is considering a plan to fire the entire editorial staff of its Sunday magazine, and turn the whole operation over to the business side of the paper. It would no longer even be an editorial product. (Just try to imagine what would happen if the NYT Magazine did this). The newsroom is pissed, with LAT editor Russ Stanton reportedly asking the publisher to change the magazine's name if the plan goes through, so it doesn't tarnish the newsroom's credibility. Gee, we remember another LAT Sunday magazine scandal in 1999, back when these types of things actually provoked outrage rather than resignation:
In '99, it was revealed that the paper's magazine had come up with a plan to share the revenue from a special (flattering) issue about the city's Staples Center with the Staples Center, in exchange for advertising help. Which, needless to say, was a breach of the storied Chinese wall between the editorial and business sides. There was a huge uproar! Some quotes from the time:
"Something this blatant, this bizarre, something that is just so compromising - this was a monumental error," said Stanford journalism professor William Woo...
"The whole tone is, "How can I believe what I read now?' " [Times columnist Patt] Morrison said. "That hurts. Reporters don't pass bar exams; we don't get board-certified like doctors. We're hanging our asses out there everyday. For all of us, this is 10 or 20 or 30 years of our lives put in jeopardy to add another 3 cents to somebody's dividends per share."
Will there be a huge public uproar this time around? No! Because everybody in the newspaper industry knows that their business model is dying. And while they might not like it, they'll grumble quietly, or just go ahead and retire. Because we're far past the days when complaining about jaw-dropping things like this would do any good.