Monday, October 23, 2006

Editorial Mission of the L.A. Times: "Beholden to No Individual or Political Organization"

The Los Angeles Times announced a makeover for the paper with its Sunday edition. When I went out to my drive yesterday, before I even picked up the copy, I noticed a flashy, colorful revision of the front-page, especially the new, bolder font for the feature headline stories.

In one significant change, the Times has moved the daily Op-Ed pages to the back of the paper's section one. Good move! Now, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the Times will have all the hard news and daily editorial and commentary pieces in section "A." This makes things easier for hard-copy readers to separate politics from all the other sections in the paper, often accessed later in the day (especially if one checks political news before the business, sports or culture pages).

Today's entire Op-Ed section is devoted to explaining the changes,
and the paper's lead editorial reflects on the editorial mission of the Los Angeles Times:

Freedom is our core value. We feel a special obligation to defend civil liberties and human rights. Because newspapers and other news media, uniquely among businesses, enjoy and rely on a provision of the Bill of Rights that protects freedom of the press, we assume an obligation to defend the rights of all citizens.

We reject overreaching moves by public authorities to control the culture or private mores. Citizens' right to privacy, to decide for themselves how best to lead their lives, is fundamental. It is in keeping with our Western roots to champion individual autonomy and the freedom of conscience.

The United States has developed into one nation whose citizens are engaged in a common enterprise and are entitled to live under the same basic framework of laws and enjoy their equal protection. And much as the bonds linking Americans have grown stronger over time, so too have the bonds among nations in the global economy. We believe that lowering barriers to trade and communication will lead to greater freedom and prosperity for all.

At home and abroad, we believe that free markets are the best engines of prosperity. We are deeply skeptical of government attempts to subvert markets to engineer economic outcomes, though we also believe that a private economy requires a robust public infrastructure and a social safety net to prevent some members of society from falling prey to unconscionable levels of poverty and privation that corrode our democracy.

An abiding commitment to preserve the nation's natural treasures also is in keeping with our Western roots. Californians understand that there is a need for society and government to protect wilderness, balancing the interests of growth and conservation, and to regulate human activity to preserve the quality of our air and water for generations to come. The market may be the best arbiter of economic activity, but in pursuit of environmental and public health goals, state regulation must often encroach on private behavior.

Engagement with the rest of the world is a requirement of good citizenship. The United States should be an unabashed promoter of freedom and democracy in the world, ready to work with others to help ease the burdens of less fortunate nations. We believe that the United States should have, and sometimes must use, the strongest military in the world. It also is important to shine a spotlight on global development challenges that don't necessarily dominate daily news headlines, and that is part of our mission.
The editors go on to note that intellectual honesty is the cornerstone of the paper and that the paper "champions its principles without regard to partisanship, beholden to no individual or political organization." (I wonder here if their regulatory impulses on issues of the environment and public health contradict their claim to "champion individual autonomy and the freedom of conscious.)

The changes at the Times are unfolding in the context of the paper's business struggles as well and the dynamic news environment in which technological change is placing dramatic pressures on old-line journalistic practices.

There is some
debate on whether traditional hard-copy newspapers are on the way out in an era of growing online information. Perhaps this week's makeovers at the Times are the initial moves in the paper's attempt to become a truly national newspaper, with readily available national editions like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

I blogged about this a couple of weeks back,
when I commented on Michael Kinsley's suggestions for positioning the Times among the undisputed top ranks of the national print journalism powerhouses.

No comments: