"What I'd like to do is get a paper that is L.A.-centered, unlike
the Los Angeles Times, which has been drifting more and more away
from what the city is about," says Mr. Riordan, the two-term mayor
and millionaire businessman who is reportedly financing much of the
paper's $5 million start-up costs. "Second, I'd like to have a paper
that is prohonesty, which doesn't let reporters espouse their [own]
ideology unless they can prove what they are saying is right."
Besides Riordan's longtime and well-known beefs with the Times -
he claims 98 percent of writers are liberal Democrats - he says the
city he loves is hungry for a publication that reflects its
uniqueness within the American landscape - from the entertainment
world of Hollywood, to the affluent Bel Air/Beverly Hills, to the
immigrant neighborhoods of Koreatown and South Central.
Although some newspaper industry analysts have said the venture
will be expensive and take a long time to establish, the idea
received a much needed boost with the recent closing of another
alternative weekly, "New Times Los Angeles."
Holding a copy of their 52-page prototype - which editors hope to
circulate to prospective advertisers and investors for a June 5
launch - managing editor Ken Layne explains further: "I read the Los
Angeles Times and think, this is a bunch of East Coasters who are
trying to imitate The New York Times," he says.
The family-owned Los Angeles Times was purchased in March 2000,
by the Chicago Tribune Co., ending 100 years of local ownership.
"We want something that reads like it actually comes from the
city," says Mr. Layne.
With that said, the self-described "centrist" and
"non-politically correct" Los Angeles Examiner is aiming to spice up
its news/politics/sports/arts/business formula with sassy writing,
unvarnished opinion, gossip, and wit.
A handful of paid editorial and business staff (perhaps 40) will
be supplemented by regular and guest columnists. Those will be drawn
from a wide and deep pool stretching from local and state
journalists to Hollywood to the state capital in Sacramento to
Actor/comedian Billy Crystal has a column in the first edition
("Love your movies, Can I see a picture ID?") as does 'Sleepless in
Seattle" movie producer Lynda Obst on Hollywood personality
disorders ("Pathologically Happy"). Susan Estrich, a professor at
the University of Southern California, who ran Michael Dukakis's
1988 presidential campaign, writes on why Hillary Clinton should not
run for president, ("she has all of [Bill's] faults and none of his
charms"). And well-known state political reporter Jill Stewart
writes about the recent demise of Republicans in California.
The aimed-for readership, says publisher Jane Kahn, a veteran of
New Times, Condé Nast, and Hearst Magazines, is "sophisticated,
smart, funny, intelligent, affluent, politically connected people
who care about the community and the issues affecting it."
Besides standard newspaper fare, editors say they will include
"quality gossip," Internet guides, film history, short movie reviews
"that people can understand," and book reviews about "books people
"Los Angeles desperately needs an alternative voice," says
Catherine Seipp, a longtime media critic for Media Week and Buzz
Magazine, who will review media for the new publication. "The
problem with L.A. media is that it has been extremely provincial.
The thinking behind this is extremely nonprovincial."
James Naughton, president of the Poynter Institute, a journalism
think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla., welcomes the addition of more
journalistic voices to the West Coast's largest city, but cautions
that the L.A. Examiner's concentration on local issues could become
too narrow in its focus.
"If they are saying they want to be very local in their coverage,
that could complement what the LA Times is doing, but if they are
being critical of the Times for having a world view and a national
view in their coverage, that is foolish," says Mr. Naughton. "To
their credit, the L.A. Times is doing a good job of trying tell
people what is going on in the wider world and there aren't enough
of those resources being used in journalism."
Analysts say that whatever the need or desire by readers for such
a paper, owners will first need to attract them in sufficient
numbers to build a loyal advertising base to support the paper
longterm. Far from just being a soapbox for alternative views,
editors admit the venture hopes to make money.
And beyond the romantic ideas of printing great copy comes the
nitty gritty and costly task of getting the paper to readers.
Meeting such goals is an uphill battle, say many analysts, one that
has foiled more than a dozen metro daily newspapers launched in
"The romance of starting a paper is in the editorial decisions,
but the hard work is in the distribution," says Michael Parks,
former editor of the Los Angeles Times, now director of the
Annenberg Journalism School at USC.
Despite many years of dueling with the former, Mr. Parks lauds
"The problem we as a nation face is also true in Los Angeles,
which is that we've fallen into a period of great civic
disengagement," says Parks. "I applaud Riordan's willingness to
spend his own time and money promoting civic reengagement. I don't
think he will put the Times out of business or even steal a lot of
readers, but he is putting needed ideas in the public forum and that
is a good thing."