Remembering New Times

The Los Angeles New Times—a paper for which I occasionally wrote (and from whom I had an outstanding feature assignment for which I'll now need to find a new home)—is going out of business after this week's issue.

The national New Times chain apparently killed its L.A. version in a deal with its biggest national alt-weekly rival chain, owned by the Village Voice. The Voice's parent company agreed to kill its Cleveland paper in exchange for New Times' bowing out of L.A.

Those who believe in the propriety of antitrust enforcement might be sniffing that this isn't the way competition is supposed to work in a perfect world. But of course, we don't live in a perfect world—or a perfect market—and antitrust law tends to be useless for actual help to consumers anyway.

I'll miss the New Times. It was generally zestier in tone and less bogged down in a tedious "progressive" leftist mindset than its Voice-owned rival L.A. Weekly. It also, despite being owned by out-of-towners (as is L.A.'s major daily, the Los Angeles Times), felt more locally engaged than its rival, and featured some great writers I'll miss, like Jill Stewart on local and state politics and Kate Sullivan on the local music scene.

Believing that the law (which ultimately means force) shouldn't have much to say about market competition doesn't mean you can't acknowledge that the waves of change unleashed by free decisions in free markets often leave in their wake results that make people—including me—unhappy. Yes, media consolidation can cost individuals and communities things that they value—even if it isn't, as some complain, successfully choking off any alternative sources of news.

Even without L.A. New Times, any Angeleno with access to a computer has at her command more varied sources of information and entertainment than five years ago. (Kate Sullivan's fans will still be able to read her blog, for instance.) Of course, I remember five years ago I was cursing the New Times for taking the place of two previously beloved locally owned alt-weeklies, the L.A. Reader and the Village View. I can only anticipate that some publication will come along to help ease the sting of the L.A. New Times' passing. In the meantime, I'll mourn it—without hoping that a squad of government lawyers backed up by men with guns start snooping around.

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