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That’s true of all TV. I didn’t use to pay for television 25 years ago. I had rabbit ears like you did. And it beamed three or four channels and that’s what you got. And when they hooked you up to the cable that created a revenue stream and they were able to create more programming. It was a remarkably shrewd and effective way of expanding the television universe and for the better. And I would argue that, tellingly, the newspaper industry went the opposite way. What happened was Wall Street.
The great sin was taking what were community-based, family-owned newspapers, and linking them together in chains, making them public companies and going to Wall Street with them because Wall Street did to the newspaper industry what it did to other industries.
reason: When you say "Wall Street," do you mean The Tribune Company [owner of the Sun and Los Angeles Times]?
Simon: I mean the operating dynamic of Wall Street—capitalism. Talk to any Baltimorean about what The Baltimore Sun has become. There are 130 people in the newsroom now. There used to be 600. At a certain point, nobody’s covering the city courthouse.
reason: I don’t know Baltimore, but I know a lot of people at the Los Angeles Times. And it would be hard to argue it’s any worse than it was in 1995, or 1955.
Simon: I don’t know what to say to you. You’re bringing things that are not rooted in empiricism. You have some emotional disconnect.
reason: No, I’m just saying that the Los Angeles Times has always been first and foremost a booster for the idea of Los Angeles.
Simon: You’re bringing some sort of weird ideology into it.
reason: Then what are you doing?
Simon: I’m bringing the amount of ground covered. When it’s healthy and you have enough to do and you have enough people to do it, the agenda is to cover the ground and to cover it smarter and to find out what really the fuck is going on.
Like anything worth trying and anything worth doing, you fail as much as you succeed. But I never had anybody say to me, “We’re doing this and we think this is good or we think this is bad.” They basically just planted me on the beat. And they planted five of us on the crime beat. There was a court reporter every day that you could work with. There were three police reporters at any given moment. There were general assignment reporters that could be thrown into law enforcement issues.
And we covered more ground. There’s one guy left. There’s one guy. He’s working his ass off. That’s true at The Baltimore Sun. That’s true at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. That’s true at the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. That’s true at The Los Angeles Times.
reason: What I’m saying is that you might have more people covering stuff, but you did not have a moment where The Los Angeles Times was interrogating the power structure in Los Angeles, even when it had twice as many reporters. Now, you can read many sources coming out of Los Angeles, including The Los Angeles Times. I think probably City Hall and the power structure is more aptly covered than it was under a traditional model.
Simon: I couldn’t disagree more. And I can only cite what’s going on in Baltimore. There’s more commentary. There’s more debate. There’s more discussion. The internet is a great democratization tool—
reason: I would argue there is also more firsthand reporting, observational reporting.