Every so often a character in a book will make an observation that you have to believe is coming from the author. And so it was as I was reading The Burning Room by Michael Connelly, in a scene where detective Harry Bosch is researching a horrific fire at a child care center that he is now discovering was a homicide.
Harry is reading an extensive report in the Los Angeles Times that covered several pages the day after the 1993 homicide. On one page is a box listing all of the journalists who worked on the story.
Bosch counted 22 names, and it made him miss the old Los Angeles Times. In 1993 it was big and strong, its editions fat with ads and stories produced by a staff of some of the best and brightest journalists in their field. Now the paper looked like someone who had been through chemo – thin, unsteady, and knowing the inevitable could only be held off for so long.
While Connelly was writing about Harry Bosch’s hometown paper, the description fits almost every publication in the U.S. news business – and, frankly, not only those outlets that still employ a conventional press. Ever since some bean counter somewhere decided that newsrooms must turn a profit, it’s been heading downhill.
My first boss said the news department was a public service, not a profit center, and he expected the other parts of the radio station to raise the money to support the newsroom’s expenses. You don’t hear that in the boardrooms that control most journalism enterprises these days.