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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.

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The aimed-for readership, says publisher Jane Kahn, a veteran of New Times, Condé Nast, and Hearst Magazines, is "sophisticated, smart, funny, intelligent, affluent, politically connected people who care about the community and the issues affecting it."

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Besides standard newspaper fare, editors say they will include "quality gossip," Internet guides, film history, short movie reviews "that people can understand," and book reviews about "books people really read."

"Los Angeles desperately needs an alternative voice," says Catherine Seipp, a longtime media critic for Media Week and Buzz Magazine, who will review media for the new publication. "The problem with L.A. media is that it has been extremely provincial. The thinking behind this is extremely nonprovincial."

James Naughton, president of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla., welcomes the addition of more journalistic voices to the West Coast's largest city, but cautions that the L.A. Examiner's concentration on local issues could become too narrow in its focus.

"If they are saying they want to be very local in their coverage, that could complement what the LA Times is doing, but if they are being critical of the Times for having a world view and a national view in their coverage, that is foolish," says Mr. Naughton. "To their credit, the L.A. Times is doing a good job of trying tell people what is going on in the wider world and there aren't enough of those resources being used in journalism."

Analysts say that whatever the need or desire by readers for such a paper, owners will first need to attract them in sufficient numbers to build a loyal advertising base to support the paper longterm. Far from just being a soapbox for alternative views, editors admit the venture hopes to make money.

And beyond the romantic ideas of printing great copy comes the nitty gritty and costly task of getting the paper to readers. Meeting such goals is an uphill battle, say many analysts, one that has foiled more than a dozen metro daily newspapers launched in recent decades.

"The romance of starting a paper is in the editorial decisions, but the hard work is in the distribution," says Michael Parks, former editor of the Los Angeles Times, now director of the Annenberg Journalism School at USC.

Despite many years of dueling with the former, Mr. Parks lauds Riordan's motives.

"The problem we as a nation face is also true in Los Angeles, which is that we've fallen into a period of great civic disengagement," says Parks. "I applaud Riordan's willingness to spend his own time and money promoting civic reengagement. I don't think he will put the Times out of business or even steal a lot of readers, but he is putting needed ideas in the public forum and that is a good thing."

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