The Times, A-Changin'
Big media getting bigger as Los Angeles Times acquired by parent of Chicago Tribune
When General Harrison Gray Otis acquired the Los Angeles Times in 1882, it was little more than a partisan, gossip-filled rag. Over the next century, his son-in-law Harry Chandler and his descendants shaped it into the well-respected newspaper it is today. From their humble beginnings, the Los Angeles Times and its parent Times Mirror Co. have grown into a media powerhouse with several publications and television stations under their control. But after the announcement March 13 that the Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune and various other newspapers and television stations, will buy out the Times Mirror Co., the media dynasty that ruled Los Angeles for over a century will come to an end.
This merger follows hot on the heels of the fusion of other media giants, like the new America Online-Time Warner. The union of the Tribune and the Times Mirror companies removes local control from one of the best newspapers in the country. It remains to be seen whether this merger will still allow for the autonomy of the various news sources now combined under the Tribune Co. umbrella, rather than leading to a homogenization of reporting.
With the mergers of multimedia companies inevitably comes the reduction in reporting sources. Good journalism thrives on the competition between news organizations. With fewer media sources, the number of independent eyes covering a given story declines. Also, the rise of large media conglomerates creates disincentives for reporters to cover stories that could be potentially harmful to the parent company. Even if these subsidiaries were to report on the drawbacks and problems with their parent companies, definite doubts concerning their objectivity arise.
However, Jack Fuller, the president of the Tribune's publishing unit, has repeatedly affirmed his commitment to journalistic integrity. Fuller's reputation is in pleasant contrast to that of the editor of the Los Angeles Times, Michael Parks, who has become notorious for his attempts to break down the wall of separation between business and newsgathering. Furthermore, the Tribune's local media outlets enjoy a significant degree of autonomy, with the majority of decisions being made on a local level.
Proponents of media conglomerates and advocates of independent news sources alike will be watching the latest of these mergers with interest. The Los Angeles Times was a local institution that worked to become a respected national paper, distinguishing itself with stellar local coverage along with hard-hitting reporting on the national and international levels. Although its parent company may have changed, we hope that the same level of journalistic integrity and good reporting will continue for the Los Angeles Times and all of the new subsidiaries of the Tribune Company.