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In L.A., a new tabloid from its ex-mayor

Richard Riordan's L.A. Examiner will have local focus, 'unbiased' news, and even pieces by Billy Crystal.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 30, 2003


Presses hum while men in blue jumpsuits scurry to and fro, jabbing computer buttons to adjust color and contrast at the Los Angeles Examiner, a new weekly tabloid.

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The prototype newspaper copies are the brainchild of former Republican Mayor Richard Riordan, who wants to add color and contrast to the nation's second-largest media market, which has close to 70 radio stations but only one major newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.

"What I'd like to do is get a paper that is L.A.-centered, unlike the Los Angeles Times, which has been drifting more and more away from what the city is about," says Mr. Riordan, the two-term mayor and millionaire businessman who is reportedly financing much of the paper's $5 million start-up costs. "Second, I'd like to have a paper that is prohonesty, which doesn't let reporters espouse their [own] ideology unless they can prove what they are saying is right."

Besides Riordan's longtime and well-known beefs with the Times - he claims 98 percent of writers are liberal Democrats - he says the city he loves is hungry for a publication that reflects its uniqueness within the American landscape - from the entertainment world of Hollywood, to the affluent Bel Air/Beverly Hills, to the immigrant neighborhoods of Koreatown and South Central.

Although some newspaper industry analysts have said the venture will be expensive and take a long time to establish, the idea received a much needed boost with the recent closing of another alternative weekly, "New Times Los Angeles."

Holding a copy of their 52-page prototype - which editors hope to circulate to prospective advertisers and investors for a June 5 launch - managing editor Ken Layne explains further: "I read the Los Angeles Times and think, this is a bunch of East Coasters who are trying to imitate The New York Times," he says.

The family-owned Los Angeles Times was purchased in March 2000, by the Chicago Tribune Co., ending 100 years of local ownership.

"We want something that reads like it actually comes from the city," says Mr. Layne.

With that said, the self-described "centrist" and "non-politically correct" Los Angeles Examiner is aiming to spice up its news/politics/sports/arts/business formula with sassy writing, unvarnished opinion, gossip, and wit.

A handful of paid editorial and business staff (perhaps 40) will be supplemented by regular and guest columnists. Those will be drawn from a wide and deep pool stretching from local and state journalists to Hollywood to the state capital in Sacramento to academe.

Actor/comedian Billy Crystal has a column in the first edition ("Love your movies, Can I see a picture ID?") as does 'Sleepless in Seattle" movie producer Lynda Obst on Hollywood personality disorders ("Pathologically Happy"). Susan Estrich, a professor at the University of Southern California, who ran Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential campaign, writes on why Hillary Clinton should not run for president, ("she has all of [Bill's] faults and none of his charms"). And well-known state political reporter Jill Stewart writes about the recent demise of Republicans in California.