You’ve probably noticed that a few things have been a little bit different about your local newspaper over the past two months.
To the point, anyone who’s read us for any length of time can see that we now contain fewer pages than just last year at this time. I’m here to tell you that is the case; our page counts have been light of late, and, as anyone can surmise, that’s likely not a good thing.
In these digital times, newspapers, especially daily papers, have not been doing very well in the circulation, advertising and page-count departments. In fact, some experts say that because of these declines it’s practically a mathematical certainty that daily papers as we know them can’t last much longer in their present form within the current web/paper publishing business paradigm. Some of these same experts actually expect most will be gone in the next few years, either shuttered or converted into smaller tabloid-size versions of themselves, or relegated to an online presence only. A number of daily and weekly papers have already been forced to choose one of these options, some managing to stay in the game more successfully than others.
But perhaps the biggest change for us, for those keeping track of such things, is our masthead has changed. No longer are we owned by Southland Publishing, which bought the paper from the LA Times in 2001 and created numerous other weekly and monthly publications, among them San Diego CityBeat, IE Weekly, Culture, Arroyo, Verdugo and Ventana magazines, and in 2003 LA CityBeat and ValleyBeat. The latter two were born and nurtured right here in this office, and then closed in 2009.
Today, or as of Aug. 1, 2019, our new owners are Times Media Group, based in Tempe, Arizona and owners of 17 community newspapers in that state. But don’t get the wrong idea; this is not the LA Times, but an independently owned operation that has devoted itself to producing newspapers that deliver local news in the communities they serve; news that actually matters to their readers.
To be honest, some extremely painful cuts in PW staff have been made, as well as at our sister newspapers the Argonaut, San Diego CityBeat and the Ventura County Reporter. It’s difficult sometimes to reconcile the loss of years-long professional relationships with the knowledge that this is a business and things must be streamlined to be successful. But that’s the simple truth, and we who remain must soldier on.
From where I stand, things could have been much worse for all of us. I say this because we’ve been a major pain in the behind to our competitors, mainly the LA Weekly and other local publications, even the Pasadena Star-News and the LA Times. Although they are all hurting financially, any one of them might have made a bid when they learned that PW was up for sale, and bought us just to acquire our ads, lists and maybe some staff. Then, with no small measure of vengeful satisfaction, they could finally remove the last PW news racks that still stand on Pasadena sidewalks.
But that did not happen. Nor have there been any demands to change what we do, at least not that much. We still cover the issues that impact our readers, just as we still cover the local arts scene like no other publication in the region.
After nearly 20 years, the folks at Southland apparently just had enough of the weekly grind and wanted to cash out, but not so much so that they would sell us to a company that only wanted to scuttle the operation. Far from it. Never once has anyone at TMG criticized what we do, or told us what to do or not do. Nor have they strayed very far from the necessary ad-to-edit ratio that the former PW often gave up on.
The good news is that it’s gotten to the point now that I must cut content to make the ads fit, albeit at just 28 pages, and that’s something I haven’t had to do in several years, since we were owned by the LA Times.
So it was with these realities in mind that we, as a group, decided this week to make some changes to the paper’s design which will make it not only easier to produce and edit, but also more accessible, enjoyable to read and more attractive to look at.
Naturally, in the Digital Age we live in, we will also be posting stories throughout the week on our website and all the social media platforms.
So welcome to the new ol’ PW, or P-Dub, as some once came to call us.
Here’s to another 35 years.
Kevin Uhrich is the editor of the Pasadena Weekly. Contact him at KUhrich@timespublications.com or call (626) 584-1500, ext. 115.