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Save the presses! Southern California news is in danger

Journalists at <em>The Washington Post</em> work in a newsroom surrounded by screens showing its website and updated reader metrics.
Journalists at The Washington Post work in a newsroom surrounded by screens showing its website and updated reader metrics.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

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For weeks now, there have been rumors of major layoffs at Southern California News Group publications. That's the company that owns the Orange County Register, the L.A. Daily News, the Daily Breeze and other local newspapers.

On Tuesday, company executives confirmed those rumored staff cuts to KPCC. Although cuts like this have taken place in the past, the scope of these new cuts reflects a national phenomenon that is troubling. Ken Doctor has been analyzing the local media landscape for 15 years. He spoke with A Martinez on the latest in a series of blows to longstanding SoCal news outlets.

Why is this happening? 

These layoffs at the Register and Daily News and Daily Breeze seem to be part of a larger trend. In November, the website LAist was abruptly shut down. The L.A. weekly was also acquired by a new owner that proceeded to lay off most of its staff. And now this. So, what's driving it?

"Print advertising. That is the number one cause. Certainly, reader habits have changed over time. We're all using our phones and using digital a lot more, but some companies have adjusted...print advertising in this industry is just going away. It's going away more quickly now and digital advertising is dominated, hugely dominated by Google and Facebook."

Together, Google and Facebook take more than 60 percent of all the digital advertisement in the country. The only problem is, neither of those companies produces any kind of news, especially local news.

What does this mean for Angelenos hungry for local news coverage?

"You have the 11 papers you noted, there are journalists at those papers doing good work, it's just less work than it was. You have the L.A. Times which is still the third largest daily newsroom in the country, and so they're producing a lot of content, it's just much more spotty."

There are plenty of sources, Doctor explained, also pointing out the large news staff at KPCC. However, these sources are more scarce. Now more than ever, it's on the news consumer to seek them out.

Any possible solutions?

Doctor pointed to privately owned papers like the Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, or The Boston Globe, owned by billionaire Red Sox owner John Henry.

"The history of American daily journalism is to go out there, get a whole bunch of news, put it into a product and sell it to people and keep the opinions to the opinion page. The editorial pages. In general and in places like Los Angeles and even the Bay area we haven't seen that kind of investment yet."

But private ownership is still a possibility.