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August 11, 2006
You're Kind And Good Looking, Too ... Boss

Southern California has a population density almost unrivalled in America. It serves as the home of the entertainment industry, which has far-reaching cultural and political influence. Immigration issues have brought local activists on both sides to national prominence. The region produces power brokers that have global impact. It makes sense, then, that the Los Angeles Times would produce a list of the area's most powerful people for its West Magazine publication.

And perhaps considering the fragile economic conditions at Southern California's biggest newspaper, a little sucking up to the brass comes as no surprise. Listed third in the "Other 90" section (sorted alphabetically) is Dean Baquet, the new boss of the writers who drafted the list:

Yeah, we know what some will say: How self-serving to put your boss on the list. But Baquet, who won a Pulitzer Prize in Chicago and served as the New York Times' national editor before coming to L.A. in 2000, sets the agenda for the most powerful media voice in the region. With resources shrinking, how well Baquet weathers budget pressures from long-distance owner Tribune Co. will go a long way toward determining how robust that voice remains.

Since when is the Los Angeles Times the "most powerful media voice in the region"? Their circulation figures alone belie that description. The LAT has lost subscribers steadily over the last several years, and the reason Baquet works there at all is because the Tribune Company needed someone to stop the bleeding. Local television news reaches more people than the Times, and its own poor journalistic performance has assured the paper of has-been status. Baquet has his work cut out for him just in rescuing this shell of a media voice, let alone have time to broker power in the region or anywhere else.

The writers may have understood that, because they hedged their bets. Two entries above Baquet, they listed the man to whom their resumes will go when the Times goes belly-up:

N. Christian Anderson III Publisher and CEO, Orange County Register; 56, Coto de Caza

It's tough to admit it, but Anderson, a virtual lifer at Orange County's leading newspaper, first as editor and then as publisher, waged a block-by-block newspaper war with the L.A. Times on its home front until Tribune Co. bought The Times and all but waved the white flag. It's impossible to "out-local the locals," Anderson said then. In proving his point, he has solidified O.C.'s separate identity in Southern California.

As a long-time subscriber to the Register when I lived in Orange County -- where we never called it "The OC" -- I have an abiding fondness for the Randian libertarian publication. I read it as a kid when it was the Santa Ana Register, and it has developed into a well-respected broadsheet over the years. However, with all due respect to Mr. Anderson, he's hardly in the top 100 either.

He does run a better newspaper than the one Baquet got saddled with, though, and I suspect they may start hiring sooner than the Times. This lip-lock on the posteriors of both men look much more like an effort at career security than journalism.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 11, 2006 8:37 PM

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