Friday, October 18, 2002

doesn't seem like old 'times'

here's our letter to the la times concerning the massive changes in their calendar section:

Dear Los Angeles Times,

I'd like to thank you for adding the most valuable commodity possible to my life: Time.

I used to spend a couple of hours every Sunday morning lounging with my wife and a cup of coffee, perusing the Sunday Times. But now, thanks to the new harder-to-read format, you've totally eliminated my desire to spend any time at all with your newspaper, thus giving me an extra two hours per weekend.

I am no expert in fonts, but it's obvious you have changed yours, to something more round, fatter and darker than before, thus adding to the generally muddy and overly-busy look of the Calendar section. Add to this the merging of what was left of the Living (formerly Style) section, and the result, instead of a place chock-full of information, seems more like somebody's attic where they shoved everything they didn't have anywhere else to put.

Your by-lines, which used to be big and bold and easy to read, are now smaller, with more space above and below them. It seems like you want the by-lines to stand out, but want the readers to work really hard to read them; talk about passive-aggressive publishing!

And now you have so many lines separating the stories, where before you would assume that the reader was smart enough to follow the wrap-around to the next line in the same column when they came to a big blank space.

Perhaps I'd be willing to tolerate the new, messier, uglier typeface on a daily basis, but the change from magazine-style Sunday Calendar to full-size bulky gotta-fold-it-if-you-wanna-hold-it newspaper size for Sunday Calendar puts you over the line of acceptability for a relaxing weekend.

I wish i were younger and my eyes weren't as bad as they are; I wish I didn't need reading glasses for things up close reading, glasses that are totally unworkable to see anything more than an arm's length away, but I am, and I do. So now your new size demands that I either hold the whole section in my hands and move it around to get the various stories close to my face, or lay it sprawled across the breakfast table, and I adjust my own head and body up and down to read the top part of the page. Relaxing? I don't think so.

And, it seems like you might need a dictionary down there. Your "Comics-Plus" section turns out to be a very Orwellian "Comics-Minus" menagerie, eliminating some of my favorite strips. No more gentle, warm humor of "Mutts," or "Shirley and Son," or the stalwart "Mary Worth," which has been in production since before most of your editors and copy writers were born, I'd wager. These family-friendly comics will be sorely missed by me. And I am sure that "Sylvia" and "Over The Hedge," had a huge readership, and "Agnes" and "That's Life" will be missed as well. I wonder how you can discontinue 7 strips and use the word "Plus" in your section title.

And, just out of curiosity, did you have to fire your proof-readers to afford paying for the brain-trust that came up this new pseudo-New-York-Times format?

On Monday, Oct. 14, George Skelton's Capitol Journal on page B-5, told the story of a Times reader who had some clever suggestions about the current gubernatorial race. This reader, one "Denny Freidenrich of Laguna Beach" suggests "[Simon's] an embarrassment to the political process in general and the Republican Party in particular. Not only should he fired the aide [who plotted Simon's false fund-raising charge against Davis], he should fire himself...

"Without needing to spend millions on TV commercials, Davis should pledge to [give] half his campaign war chest to the states general fund. This translates into about $10 million for food for needy kids, help for disabled seniors, more teacher aides in classrooms, etc."

Good idea, and cute and clever way to start a column, Mr. Skelton. But then, on page B10, under the Letters to the Times section, I found the following, contained in the second letter:

"Mr. Simon you are an embarrassment to the political process in general and the Republican Party in particular. You should fire the campaign aides who came up with the idea to publicly discredit Davis, and while you're at it, fire yourself as well.

"With his challenger out of the race and without having to spend millions on TV commercials, Davis should then pledge to return half his campaign war chest to the states general fund. He could donate about $10 million to programs to feed needy children, help disabled seniors or put more teacher aides in classrooms, for example."

And the signature of this almost carbon-copy thesis? Not Denny Freidenrich, but one A.L. Cynton of Laguna Beach.

Now, either there's a ring of letter-plagiarists running around Laguna Beach that hoodwinked both Mr. Skelton and the Editorial staff of the Times, or you guys could use a proof-reader.

Ok, maybe that's nit-picking. Maybe I'm just a little angry about having to adjust my Sunday Calendar up and down to be able to read the top and bottom parts of it, when I actually can find what I'm looking for in that new, murky, hard-to-read version.

Or maybe you just need proof readers. Wednesday, October 16, I looked for the TV listings to see what's on for that night, and what do I find in the back of the Calendar? "Tuesday Primetime Television." Yes, it was indeed, the entire listing for all Tuesday day and all Tuesday night for every single channel, printed on Wednesday. Not very helpful. And you would think somebody down there might mention, "Uh, hey, guys? Isn't this Wednesday's paper? Why are we printing Tuesday's listing?"

God, how I miss the Herald Examiner.

Sincerely,

etc. etc.

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