Saturday, February 07, 2009

Improving Glendale's Hometown Newspaper

I was about to go on a rant on how the Glendale News-Press completely ignored the death of Lux Interior, the Cramps founder and frontman who died on Tuesday at the age of 62.

Not only did Lux die here in Glendale, but he and wife/fellow Cramps member Poison Ivy lived right here in Adams Hill. The GNP is such a small-town newspaper that it runs photos of people holding up the newspaper on vacation, yet it can't be bothered with the death of a local icon. Blogs and newspapers all over the country mentioned his death in Glendale. But the hometown newspaper? Nothing.

So on to the GNP. Yes, it's a small-town newspaper... but Glendale isn't exactly a small town. It's a city with a population of 207,000. Take Glendale away from the L.A. region and it would be big enough to support a full newspaper, as well as TV and radio stations. (At least before the economic collapse; but I'm comparing it to smaller cities like Rockford or Duluth, both of which support a slew of media outlets.)

Once upon a time, the Glendale News-Press was, indeed, a full-fledged newspaper, but in 1993 became a part of the Los Angeles Times' community news division (now known as Times Community News) after Times-Mirror bought Coast Community News, the publisher of the Daily Pilot, the Huntington Beach Independent, the Glendale News Press, the Burbank Leader, and the Foothill Leader.

The News-Press became a local supplement of the LAT, and was stripped down to just local news and sports. (Those were ambitious days at the LAT, back when the paper was aggressively moving into the Valley, Orange County and Ventura County, and was also launching all sorts of community supplements. As you know, most of those are now gone.

In recent years, the Glendale News-Press has gotten thinner, and its staff smaller -- and these days carries just as much or even less content than your average college paper.

Now comes word that Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader editor Danette Goulet is departing the papers and moving to Boston. A search is already underway to find her replacement. Given the limitations of the small GNP team, I've got a few suggestions for the new editor:

-- Set up a working internship program with Glendale Community College's journalism program, sending out students on general assignment stories. That will free up staffers to focus on beat journalism -- namely, city hall, education, courts and cops.
-- Strike a deal with local bloggers to aggregate their content on the GNP website, or even repurpose blurbs -- fully sourced -- in print. Perhaps even launch a few in-house blogs yourself.
-- Clean house with your freelance restaurant and movie reviewers who, best I can tell, don't have much critique experience. Again, it's not hard to find a few strong writers in the local blogosphere who might be willing to pass along their services in exchange for promoting their sites.
-- DreamWorks Animation and Disney, among others, call Burbank and Glendale home. Yet the GNP rarely mentions the business -- or when it does, it's woefully late (such as the paper's strange decision to write about ABC's layoffs a day after everyone else -- including the LAT -- wrote about it). Find someone in the business, perhaps a working crew member, who has the talent and qualifications to write a weekly column about life in the biz.
-- And while we're at it, take a better look at your columnists, some of whom seem to write variations on the same column every week, and most of whom aren't writing much that is actually relevant to Glendale. For a publication as small as the GNP, and with such a small news hole, the fact that the paper carries a lengthy column each week on grammar -- yes, an entire weekly column on grammar -- is embarrassing.
-- Start updating the GNP website more frequently -- or at least when big enough news happens that an update is warranted. The paper still appears to update just once a day, when the next day's content is uploaded to the web around 10 p.m. A few times there have been Glendale-centric stories that have happened overnight -- but I've been forced to wait an additional 24 hours in order to read the GNP's take.

I could go on, but that's a start. Despite its size, Glendale is woefully under-served by media (something Tropico Station's Scott has noticed as well). Yet, Glendale has no alternative paper and a surprisingly small number of active community blogs. Glendale deserves better.

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