Option 3: Convert the newspaper into a public good. Under this scenario, deep-pocketed individuals could purchase the paper and turn over the asset to the public. They could view the paper as a public good and not as a for-profit business. The Times could be run as a nonprofit, which could continue to generate fee-for-product revenue, but also rely on outside subsidies (e.g., grants, donations, government financial support). A philanthropic multibillionaire or team of them could also purchase the paper for all the people of Los Angeles and also set aside a multibillion-dollar endowment to steady and sustain the paper for years to come.
In addition to these three options, there is also the potential scenario where the Times would be shut down by a future owner, who could conclude that a large daily newspaper in Los Angeles is an obsolete concept and cannot be profitable into the future. Under such a fatalistic scenario, somewhere down the road, they could close it, perhaps by breaking the company into pieces and selling it off.
Also possible is a scenario where a group would form another newspaper to compete with the Times. For example, those group signatories of the pro-Beutner letters could become partners, hire him as their publisher and allow him to continue his business plan. The marketplace competition created by such a new paper could provide Angelenos with an equivalent or greater information value than they presently receive.
How can we ensure that the Times’ eagle continues to fly above the region, the eagle eye for the truth that we all need?
We would all benefit from exploring further the pros and cons of various options, scenarios and business models. Let’s hear from people. For instance, civic groups should activate themselves and organize public forums. Entrepreneurs can present plans and attempt to win public support.
All Angelenos would benefit from a more active, thoughtful and transparent discourse about the future of the Times and its impact on the place we call home.
Calvin Naito is a strategic communications professional based in Los Angeles.