Politics & Media
Sep 24, 2008, 06:09AM

A tragic bit of journalism at the LA Times.

LOLcats trump the economy. Seriously.

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Alex Barth

Sam Zell, the owner of the Tribune Company, is being sued by his own employees at the LA Times, "accusing him of recklessness in the takeover and management of the newspaper’s parent, the Tribune Company,” which I posted earlier this week via Jeff Jarvis.

Yesterday, LA Observed posted two screen shots, one of the LAT's homepage and one of The New York Times' homepage. The latter had, as one might surmise, a banner headline regarding the current economic turmoil. The former? Here it is:


Why, yes—yes that is a lead image of a LOLcat on the LAT's website.

The stock market takes the second and third spots, behind "Cute pets, quick wits get  many Web hits" (the homepage headline was different from the article's headline).

I think the criticism is pretty obvious, here. I don't think I need to add more descriptive  hyperbole as to the economic situation, but this is pretty baffling. There are few, if any, precedents for a potential $700 billion "bailout," and readers need to know this, regardless if no one outside of Paul Krugman, Chris Dodd, Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke and a handful of others has any idea of what's going on.

But this wasn't a one-time thing. Today, we have a similar situation on the LAT's homepage, but this time the national economic situation isn't even mentioned. The top headline reads, "In Macon, music softens a racial divide," with "Financial crisis dominates the campaign trail" right underneath. Let's start with the second article: As a political junkie, I'm all about campaign news 24/7. But why does the economy have to be immediately filtered through the campaign/horserace prism? We should be tackling this dense material head on. Come November, a lot of politicians are going to use the government's course of action (in the next couple of days) as a campaign issue, for good or ill or neither, since many candidates will have only a slightly better grasp of it than the public. There is no excuse for not attempting to parse the various sections of the bailout plan, no excuse for not. at. least. trying. to make some sense of this.

The lead article? It's a fascinating, well-written piece about music and race relations in a historically racist slice of America. Great stuff. It shouldn't be the top headline of the day.

  • Klein is completely correct in his criticism of the LA Times, which, just a decade ago, was one of the top papers in the U.S. And he's also right that the Macon story was a terrific read. Of course, what can anyone expect out of the Tribune Co. today? I think the prominence of the Macon story is an indication that the LA Times has given up trying to be a national media player, and instead, probably in vain, going for articles that are more feature-y and soft. What choice do they have? Tribune's in the tank.

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