By on July 18, 2008

How the mighty have fallen.TTAC commentator Muholland Mike writes… " As an avid reader and sometimes poster on your site I have a follow up to this story [about the elimination of the LA Times Highway One section, and the banishment to Pulitzer Prize winning auto critic Dan Neil to the Business section]. I opened up my Wed. LA times yesterday morning to find that the Auto section hadn't really gone away, it has just morphed into one of these hideous "special" sections full of crap/pr based stories on some lame ass theme like: "Luxury cars for morons." So it seems that GM and the local LA dealers have won out. Dan Neil is banished to the back of the Friday business section and the advertising department is now in complete control of the "new and improved" Automotive section, Just like every other sell-out newspaper in America." Speaking as TTAC's publisher, I look forward to the day when we can afford to hire Dan Neil. 

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20 Comments on “LA Times Auto Coverage Descends Into Disgrace...”


  • avatar
    Conslaw

    But what about the whole “hair” thing?

  • avatar

    Lemme guess, the editorial content is now provided by Motor Matters?

  • avatar

    Dan Neil’s consistently excellent writing will be missed from the Auto Section at the LA Times. Will they still allow him to write about cars?

    And I’m really hoping you can make a deal with him. Without taking anything away from the many excellent scribes on TTAC, Mr. Neil is a brilliant writer and a much needed voice in the automotive world.

  • avatar

    very sad.

  • avatar
    TokyoEnthusiast

    Saw the exact same thing happen to the Montreal Gazette. Only difference was it never had anyone intelligent writing its columns (figures, it’s Montreal). Somehow switching the font and adding “advertising suppliment” in small characters is enough to make up an automotive section nowadays.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    There’s an inverse relation to how much a media outlet focuses on the bottom line and how much it serves the public interest. The LA Times auto section is yet another example of this.

    That probably sounds like commie-talk to free market idolaters, but examples of the decline in journalistic quality and integrity as media outlets become more business-centric are legion.

  • avatar
    zloy

    who’s Dan Neil?
    and who reads newspapers these days, anyway?

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    This seems to be happening to all major market papers, as well as their satellite versions. Its all for the ad money now, readers are an after thought now.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    You don’t have to read newspapers to know who Dan Neil is.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Pig_Iron,

    Readers may be an afterthought to newspapers, but readers are clearly saying newspapers are not worth buying or subscribing to. The same thing that happened to the music business is happening to the papers.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Dan Neil is brilliant, zloy. If you care about cars and love the English language, you should read him. (Run a search for Dan Neil Rumble Seat. As Mister Wilkinson suggests, it doesn’t require a newspaper.)

    If there is truly nobody in the car criticism business that can afford Dan Neil, then there is pretty much no commercially viable business model for car criticism anymore. It will be telling.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    If you have to put Dan Neil behind a pay wall…I will pay.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    BuickD:
    That probably sounds like commie-talk to free market idolaters, but examples of the decline in journalistic quality and integrity as media outlets become more business-centric are legion.

    ‘Journalistic quality’ was an oxymoron long before current newspaper meltdowns. Ask any science or medical reporter on how reporting has changed in the last 10-20 years. Everything must be ‘balanced’. Words like ‘quack’, ‘false’, ‘peer-reviewed’, ‘double-blind study’ have been banished.

    There is no judgment, except against anyone with a profit motive. Or in support of whatever multi-million dollar damage award a dozen Oprah-addicted jurors return.

    Yes, there are serious problems that a good newspaper can expose. But the current model has been broken for a long time. The sooner it dies, the sooner its internet replacement can thrive.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    Traditional print media seems to be going into the cookie cutter outsourced mediocrity death-spiral that traditional corporate radio started in the mid to late 90s.

    Most of the desirable customers will decamp to alternatives like this site, Edmunds, etc.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The one big problem that still needs to be overcome anent “traditional print media,” whether it’s a newspaper or a magazine, is that they pay rates ranging from a living wage to extremely well. I can make $6,000 for a single 2,500-word magazine article, and I have friends (vastly more famous and talented than I am) who make $20,000 and more for one lengthy article. Even an ordinary small-city newspaper reporter can probably make a $60,000 salary, and I’m sure Dan Neil is well into five digits.

    An 800-worder for this excellent site pays $100, I do believe, and awhile ago, it paid nothing. Even a big, fancy site like forbes.autos pays barely $1,000 for a full post.

    Hard to make a living doing that, so the electronic media is all well and good, but it’s largely inhabited by people who get a charge out of seeing their name in print. That will have to change before blogs become truly legitimate.

    Hell, when I was writing regularly for Conde Nast Traveler’s big website, they didn’t pay me a cent–just assumed it was part of my existence as their freelance automotive editor…

  • avatar

    Stephan Wilkinson:

    We pay $200 for an editorial or review, $25 per blog post. If we could pay more, we would. As soon as we can, we will.

    We have one full-time freelance staffer (Frank Williams) and pay our Road Test Editor Capn’ Mike a monthly retainer.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    That’s fine, but whether it’s $100 or $200, the point remains that it’s going to be a long time before you’re paying $6,000, or $2,000, or even $1,000.

    Which is why the ranks of bloggers are presently populated by a few superb writers who have few equals in the print world; a number of “surprisingly good” writers, you might say; and an endless horde of cliche-seeking missiles who can neither spell nor punctuate and consider creative writing to be frequent repetitions of the phrases “ya think?” and “not so good.”

    To coin a phrase, it gets old.

  • avatar

    Ya think?

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Stephan Wilkinson:
    The one big problem that still needs to be overcome anent “traditional print media,” whether it’s a newspaper or a magazine, is that they pay rates ranging from a living wage to extremely well.

    Quite true. The Gannett paper that publishes in Buffalo pays exceptionally well given the local cost of living. They’ve been cutting headcount, however.

    Those pay scales are/were based on an advertising / classified / subscription model that is deteriorating and is never coming back. Also, thanks to our wonderful so-called education system, I’d say the populace is less literate now than in 1960.

    Is the current web a model for replacing local papers? Currently no. But in 10 years? Maybe.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    So far, there has been enormous resistance–as TTAC can attest–to anybody paying for what is universally considered to be “free content.” So I doubt that in 10 years, or even far longer, that will ever be an income stream for websites.

    So how about advertising as income? Well, I have never so much as noticed an ad on a website (including TTAC) as anything but an annoying distraction, typically with a bopping long-legged silhouette lady or other infuriating graphic. I have never clicked on an advertiser’s link or opened a highlighted word, and I don’t know anybody who has. I think the ad industry will eventually realize that ads on websites are a waste of everyone’s time–users as well as advertisers.

    My guess is that in a decade, we won’t see newsstands with 500 different magazines (“Lizard Lover,” “Front-Wheel-Drive Compacts,” “Binocular World,” etc.) but 50 good ones–the survivors. And maybe there will be a national newspaper survivor or three, rather than two or three in every large city.

    Print will survive, though special-interest stuff will inevitably migrate to the web, since it is of limited general interest. (Car enthusiasts, for example, comprise at best three percent of drivers. And look at the results of TTAC’s own recent “Who Are We?” survey. Fewer than 900 respondents. Even if we imagine that only 10 percent of all relatively frequent TTAC readers bothered to participate, that’s an audience of less than 9,000–smaller than my local small-town newspaper’s subscriber list.)

    But the web will not in our lifetimes be a paying proposition–too many people who will provide the content for free.


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