You would think the major newspaper in a metropolis located just 90 minutes south of Santa Barbara County wine country (and another 90 north of Temecula) would have a staff wine writer or wine critic. If not to speak for the wines of those two regions, then to only “represent” the West Coast wine writing contingent (if not perspective). For some time, the Los Angeles Times has had that role filled by a few staff writers and Corie Brown.
In a Time.com piece of some time ago, I read that the LA Times was going to lay off one sixth of its staff. “Not a good time to go pitching a column to the chief editor”, I thought. Then, by way of GoodGrape, I heard of this post by Jancis Robinson.
I am more often called jaded than naive, so I guess I’m surprised at myself for not thinking that the paper would can Corie Brown. It is not clear what will become of the paper’s wine coverage or how it will be pared down. One thing is for sure: Alice Feiring is now writing a wine related column for the LA Times Magazine – a related but separate publication. This, Alice has confirmed to me.
My contacts at the LA Times (who appreciate their anonymity) have not been able to give me a sense of the paper’s daily wine coverage but did indicate that the Los Angeles Times Magazine is outside the auspices of the daily newspaper’s editorial staff and is said to resemble a lifestyle publication in its operation.
Now, I have not met Alice Feiring and know her only through email so I have no basis on which to condemn her. She seems like a nice person. In some ways, she reminds me of a girl I used to know. In any case, I have no basis or cause to bash her and that is not what I want to do here. I suspect that she will not be a mouthpiece of those in charge of the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
I do think that this change (however reasonable from a business standpoint) speaks volumes about the management at the LA times.
It says that they don’t care that coverage of local events needs to be done by a local writer. But that takes us back to the big question of just how regular LA Times wine coverage will be. Again, I have nothing against Alice and I am not seeking to oust her, but I get the sense that if the budget-minded management could find someone in a country on the other side of the planet to farm out daily wine coverage, they’d do it in a heartbeat. Damn the consequences.
The management’s decision to eliminate a staff wine writer means that they either think the local wine industry does not need or does not deserve a critic and advocate on the newspaper’s staff. It also says that, in the management’s view, the topic is not broad and important enough and the job can be effectively filled by occasional freelancers.
And so we come to the final analysis: In the minds of the paper’s management, wine is not that important to Angelenos and there is no L.A. based writer who can cover this city’s and this state’s wine beat. Not in print, not online.
In making this move, the LA Times management have detached and isolated themselves from one of the defining industries of this state.
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