Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Local Newsmen Plan NEW Newspaper - Seek Investors

In response to my earlier post, late Monday afternoon I received information from an extremely reliable source who informed me that former Daily Pilot publisher Tom Johnson and former Daily Pilot editor and Los Angeles Times journalist Bill Lobdell - two of the most highly-regarded newsmen in our area and the duo credited with saving the Pilot from extinction in the 1990s - have been meeting with several Newport-Mesa community leaders recently about their proposal for a NEW daily community newspaper that would be delivered via the Internet and, on specific days, in print.

According to my source, Johnson and Lobdell are looking for investors who see the value in giving our community back a quality newspaper that will last deep into the 21st century. I did some checking around today and one person familiar with the Johnson-Lobdell plan says the business model is "intriguing".


There is precedent for such an "online first" approach. One such example is in San Diego, where a non-profit online newspaper, voiceofsandiego.org, which you can view HERE, was launched to fill what the founders thought was a gap in credible, timely news coverage of that area. It seems to be working. When you visit the site you will see that it is crisp, easy to read and utilizes extensive audio and video clips on many of it's stories. The stories are timely and well-written.

With the shaky condition of the Los Angeles Times under the Tribune Company umbrella - and the inevitable ripple, er, tsunami, coming down to the Times Community Newspapers and our Daily Pilot - it wouldn't surprise me at all to see our local newspaper of record for the past century cease to exist in the not-too-distant future. That would be a calamity for our community.

The Orange County Register has been in dire straits for months and has been rumored to be on the block in recent weeks. One rumor has the Register being bought by the Los Angeles Times - apparently the combined weight will help them both sink faster! The demise of the Register and The Times (including the Times Community Newspapers) would leave our communities with no source of news and information.

Some egotistical hack writers who operate local blogs have voiced their opinion that locally-written blogs could fill the gap if the Daily Pilot should disappear. That's absurd. None of us are "journalists" - we don't have the resources to gather and verify the real news. We write opinion, which sometimes includes facts. In my opinion, we simply MUST have a reliable source of news and information available to us - so we can keep the local politicians honest, for starters.

I hope Tom Johnson and Bill Lobdell are able to find investors and pull this off. The Newport-Mesa community deserves a local, reliable source of news and information. The hybrid model - online first, print to follow - seems like an excellent solution. We look forward to hearing more about this plan and will report any future news as we receive it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Zell's memo discussing the bankruptcy filing, he states that the operations will continue. In fact, to recover from bankruptcy and survive, reliable ad dollars will be needed. Local newspapers - such as the Pilot - can be the source of that reliable ad revenue. I don't respond to advertisements in the Los Angeles Times on a regular basis simply because they are regional, but I do respond and greatly value advertisements in the Daily Pilot. they are relevant to my community. I hope that a print version stays viable, as it is hard to relax and "read the paper" in front of a computer.

I'm not sure what the Pilot's finances look like, but I do know that it is a vital part of this community and needs to stay afloat. If Johnson and Lobdell really want tomake an impact, they should seek to purchase the Pilot and keep it going.

12/09/2008 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for keeping us updated.

voiceofsandiego is indeed a great model.

I wonder about distribution of a print replacement, though, if the LAT drops the Pilot, would they be willing to include its replacement in their deliveries?

How was the Pilot distributed in the 'olden days'?

Do you think the geographical focus of the new creation should be expanded to include HB and LB, which I presume would also lose their newspapers?

12/09/2008 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Where can I apply? Believe it or not, I do have a journalism degree and experience!

12/09/2008 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alex, I used to deliver the Daily Pilot when I was a teenager, a later job of mine was telephone subscription sales for them. They used to be an independent newspaper. I'm sure that they could get it distributed without the LA Times.

I think expanding its geographical reach might work, but Long Beach would be too much of a stretch. The market for community news is much less in Huntington, at least as far as I can tell. The current TCN paper there is only a weekly, and their online forums are much less utilized. Keeping the focus on Newport-Mesa may help maintain its viability and relevance - or Huntington may actually be craving MORE community news.

12/09/2008 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Alex - I can tell you how the Pilot was distributed in the olden days - by kids like me on their bikes. I remember delivering it the day Elvis died in the 70s...

12/09/2008 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, I think Alex meant Laguna Beach, not Long Beach...

My preference would be to retain the Daily Pilot, produce it 24/7/365 as an online "newspaper" like the one in San Diego, and publish a print compilation on Sunday. I have no idea the costs involved, but have been led to believe that the "printing" part for one day a week would be affordable.

I'm eager to see how this goes. Perhaps we could enlist Rob and and mesa verde madman to jump back on their bikes and distribute the "new" Pilot again...

12/09/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, Number 1-Thank you for keeping us updated on this problem.I would be very interested in anything these two gentlemen do. Putting this vehicle together will be interesting. The Daily Pilot and it's previous names has made company,s and individuals very successful and this community needs the PRESS to keep us glowing and going.All parts of this vast county need to be written about so we know what really is going on; from all opinions" As you have in the past, please keep all of us up to date.

12/09/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

might have to upgrade to a moped

12/09/2008 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they get Tony and Byron it is sure to be a winner.

12/10/2008 07:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful. I wonder how this new newspaper will approach the issue of religion, which is important in the lives of so many in the OC? Lobdell is, or at least claims to be (gotta sell the book!) a raging atheist (not agnostic, atheist). That doesn't bode well for those who are stupid enough to believe in God. But Lobdell is a journalist, you say? Do you honestly believe that journalists are really that good at keeping their personal opinions out of what they are writing? Gimme a break.

12/10/2008 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff: Great scoop! And congrats on making it to LA Observed!

12/10/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bernie, Lobdell's book is available for purchase online now and will officially be "launched" in February. I'm glad you're looking forward to it. Journalists are human, despite some reports to the contrary. As such, I imagine their personal views sneak into their reporting from time to time. I give you the example of the Mainstream Media during, and after, the presidential election... Before you castigate Lobdell and Johnson for your anticipated biased presentation of the news, what do you say we wait and see, huh? Sounds like a fair way to go.

Gustavo, thanks. I hadn't seen that mention (don't tell Kevin!).

12/10/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Volzke said...

Hmm. I worked at the Daily Pilot in 1989, and there was a great staff there when I got there.

Steve Marble was our City Editor, he moved on to the Times ... Bob Barker was a veteran news reporter who mentored us all.

No disrespect to Mr. Lobdell or Mr. Johnson, but I do have to protest the idea that they somehow resurrected journalistic quality upon their arrival.

It may have had some ups and downs over the years, but the Daily Pilot has always been a solid community paper.

I do wish the gentlemen great success. I started a community paper in San Juan Capistrano -- www.thecapistranodispatch.com -- and partnered with the founder of another community paper, the San Clemente Times more than a year ago. We then launched The Dana Point Times.

Our papers are proof there's a solid market for strong community journalism.

Jonathan Volzke

12/10/2008 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Mr. Volzke, thanks for the comment. I did go to each of your publication's sites and took a peek. Nice. I don't know if this is the model Lobdell and Johnson have in mind, but you seem to have made yours work. I agree, strong local news and features is essential. We have scrapbooks full of old - really old - Daily Pilot clippings of sports events, engagements, marriages, etc. I wish you continued success...

12/10/2008 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger William Lobdell said...

A few clarifications.

1. I'm a reluctant atheist, not a "raging atheist."

2. I'm sad I lost my faith, and not hostile to religious people (most of them, anyway).

3. I'm not sure Bernie's comment reflects the loving nature of Christ (I'm guessing he's a Christian). BTW, the best reviews of my memoir, "Losing My Religion," has come from Christian leaders.

4. To Jonathan V.'s point, the Pilot has always been home to great young journalists. When I got there in 1990, the paper had lost its way, still publishing world, national and state news along with local coverage that stretched from Huntington Beach to Dana Point to Mission Viejo to Irvine. This resulted in a business that was bleeding to death. In fact, I remember that the paper lost $250,000 in one month(!) shortly after I arrived. At one point, the paper couldn't make payroll or pay its electric bill. By focusing coverage strictly on Newport-Mesa, we were able to fully engage that community and get advertisers incredible response. It was a little miracle delivered in an era when everyone said community dailies were dead.

6. The Pilot still has quality journalists, but it's owned by a company that doesn't care about it. Tom and I believe the community deserves a quality daily news source, and we're exploring whether the community will back us with its pocketbook. We have a workable business model that will insure Newport-Mesa will have a strong source of daily news well into the 21st century. We think it's a very exciting proposition, and we hope the enthusiasm spreads. We'll see. In the meantime, thanks for filling the vacuum.

12/10/2008 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's not get too distracted by adjectives or "Christ's love" as a way of avoiding the issue. The issue is an athiest is an atheist. And the point is that a journalist with such a bias is probably not going to serve the community very well. Why? Because this particular community values religious belief, not as a salve or balm, but as something real.

Does anyone in journalism, when they are done crying for themselves and moaning about new technology, ever wonder whether there are other factors at work in print journalism's demise? Like, did you ever think that print journalists are finally catching up to the decades of public opinion polls that ranked them at the bottom of the trust pile or top of the distrust heap? Not surprisingly, I've not seen one comment by a journalist that this might be part of the problem.

And, until that is faced and admitted, we'll still have journalists who try to report on a community that they stand separate from in very fundamental ways. We need journalists who are in the community and can criticize it. But too often that criticism is made from a lofty perch. Readers have grown wise to this over the decades (as evidenced by the polls). When are journalists like Mr. Lobdell going to do the same?

12/11/2008 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Jonathan Volzke said...

It's very exciting news. I'm convinced that much of what the newspaper industry is suffering is self-inflicted, so I'm glad to see two exceptional newspapermen take on the challenge.

12/11/2008 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you are referring to the Daily Pilot, you are dead wrong. Take the time to go to a "meet the editors" event or e-mail Brady Rhoades or Paul Anderson - or anyone else at the Pilot. A reporter or editor's religious affiliation should be totally irrelevant to their coverage of the news. Obviously, you haven't been paying attention to the Daily Pilot, because the Pilot does cover faith issues and is VERY friendly to religious coverage.

I am a Christian, but I would NEVER seek to have only my faith represented in a community newspaper. There are people of many faiths in the Newport-Mesa community, and a truly community news source should not be aligned with any one faith in particular.

In fact, I would think that an "atheist" - reluctant or not - would be the best person to cover matters of faith. How else can one get truly objective reporting?

I am truly tired of the oft-repeated refrain that print journalism is biased or hostile towards certain viewpoints. The Los Angeles Times is a frequent target of such criticism. Here's a newsflash - reporters and editors are educated individuals who have opinions, yet they still manage to cover the news in a mostly unbiased manner. Certainly, editorial opinions govern what gets covered when space is at a premium, but the vast majority of everyday reporting is straight, informative news. Print journalism is, in my opinion, still far more relevant and valuable for true reporting than sound-bite TV news or the generally highly biased web-only sources.

I welcome your comments, and would appreciate any specific examples you have of bias at the Daily Pilot.

12/11/2008 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing I said was aimed at The Pilot. In my opinion, it is naive to believe that writers and editors keep their biases out of what they write. Indeed, it is one of the reasons why people dislike newspapers - and those who produce them.

Of course, there are many good journalists who try to be objective, and they do a decent job.

But c'mon, the days of the objective journalist are largely gone forever.

And, I hope that my comments didn't show any favoritism toward coverage of Christianity. Of course, there are many expressions of faith. But the faithless -- and those who definitively believe that faith is a mirage, which is what athiests believe -- are not the best persons to be writing about religion.

Indeed, polls of newsrooms indicate that the vast majority of journalists and editors are disgruntled Christians, Jews or what have you. They have axes to grind against religion, and grind them they sure do. Don't you believe otherwise.

The Pilot is an exception, so let's pour more support toward those folks. But keep Lobdell and Company out of town.

12/11/2008 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernie is a moron who's nearly a bigot. So people who don't have faith can't cover it, Bern? Yeah, like people of faith can cover religion any better. The Register is a prime example of a paper that has holy rollers yet couldn't report religion if Enoch himself came down from the clouds and said, "Miss me?" Bill's reporting stands for itself, has won awards from the Religious Newswriters Association, and stands for itself. Your comments, on the other hand, are laughable and deserve only the scorn they're receiving.

12/11/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You, Gus? Yes, you are Exhibit A for why reporters with a huge chip on their shoulder regarding religion should never be allowed to report on religion. The Catholic Disraeli himself. (Yeah, look him up, Junior.) I am honored.

12/11/2008 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger CMTRUTH said...

bernie, you are exhibit A for why clowns should stay off the internet.

Gustavo, really enjoyed your last book, look forward to the next.

Mr. West appears congrats is in order, so congrats. Also I was recently entertained in reading about the fictional character who lives in the JWA flight path and the effects it has had. Since Hitler was a meth head we are starting to wonder if the extreme paranoia displayed in mensa north could be a related symtom.

12/11/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

CMTRUTH, welcome back. I thought you'd disappeared. I'm glad you got a kick out of that post by the Mouth from Mesa North on his pathetic blog. It's not an original post - he's used it before. Funny, you'd think a guy who purports to be a Mensa member could produce something a little better. Based on his last few posts, it looks like he's scraping the bottom of his "creativity barrel".

As far as Lobdell's views on religion and the way he might run a news source... I've read the article in which he told us of the evolution of his views - fascinating story. I'm looking forward to reading his book, too. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on his role as a honcho on a new newspaper. If his views on religion permeate a new news source and they offend readers, they will stop reading. If they offend advertisers they will stop advertising. He's a very smart guy, who apparently really wants this new gig to succeed.

12/11/2008 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger CMTRUTH said...

No disappearing act =) been busy helping the family of a young man who overcame a great deal of strife only to be killed by a drunk driver. with the holidays approaching it's been rough to say the least.

12/14/2008 09:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Daily Pilot has served the Newport-Mesa community for well over 100 years. The LA Times has no plans to shut down the paper in fact the financials are in the black with plans for expansions in 2009. Instead of throwing the paper under the bus or off the drive way the community should support it in order for it to remian a vital piece of the the Newport-Mesa area. Happy Holidays and here's to the Daily Pilot in 2009 !

12/16/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...


I don't think anyone wants the Pilot to fail. However, as optimistic as you are, the fact remains that they have tossed aside around half the staff, including senior leadership and many of the main sales folks are gone. They can't survive without ad revenues and, in a down market in real estate and automobiles, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they are skating on thin ice. I want them to survive, whether Lobdell and Johnson are successful with their venture or not. In MY perfect world they would find a way to acquire the Pilot and run it the way they think is right.

12/16/2008 04:06:00 PM  

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