There was a time, an especially sweet time for journalism students, when it felt like America’s newspapers were a vital ingredient in our concept of freedom. The crescendo of that romantic passage, for one generation at least, might have played during Watergate. So it’s my guess that a lot of us would find it a disgrace if Los Angeles did not have a major daily newspaper. Actually, “disgrace” doesn’t get to it. It feels more like something akin to a lack of drinking water.
LA could lose the LA Times in more than one sense. I can imagine the paper simply evaporating in a manner similar to the disappearance of trolley cars when the auto industry crushed public transit to sell its products. There would be a lot of baloney about progress and the Internet, and then you’d wake up without a sports section next to your morning coffee.
But we could also “lose” the LA Times by having it deteriorate into something so impotent and weak that we’d feel more embarrassed by its presence than its pending demise. This is why the Times is standing up to its owners on the issue of more cuts. And this is why somebody should call the Green Bay Packers.
Instead of being privately owned, as every other major American sports team is, the Green Bay Packers are publicly owned by stockholders. In August 1923, with more than 400 in attendance at a local Elks Club, the club was transformed into a nonprofit entity, the Green Bay Packers Corporation.
There have been four major stock offerings in the history of club, but it was the third one in 1950 that was the most inspiring. People from all across Wisconsin, as well as former Green Bay residents living in other states, came forward to buy $25 shares of stock. Roughly $50,000 was raised in one 11-day period alone. A woman from a Wisconsin farm showed up at the team’s offices with $25 worth of quarters in a match box. A total of about $118,000 was generated through this major stock sale, helping to put the Packers on a sound financial basis.
Cue music, cut to shots of newsprint rolling through the presses… and the LA Times is saved!
Why can’t the people of LA and Southern California own the Times and ensure its continued quality and health by pulling the paper off its corporate mooring and offering affordable shares to any and all interested? Is it too communistic and dreamy to believe that a citizen-owned newspaper might enjoy the kind of sustained enthusiastic support the Green Bay Packers get, even when Favre isn’t connecting?
Yes, LA is the Botox-injecting vanity capital of the world, and often the global crossroads of silliness. But I bet there are plenty of people who fear a Los Angeles without the connectivity of a world-class daily paper while millionaire athletes with police records pull $100-plus ticket prices to entertain in city-supported domes offering sushi. And those people would ante up. I know I have $25 worth of quarters.
The Packers are set up in such a way that the team can never leave Green Bay and shares of stock cannot be resold, except back to the team for a fraction of the original price. It’s not about making money; it’s about holding on to something.
There may be little comparison between sausage-chugging Green Bay and the smoggy maze of Los Angeles, but consider this: Up until last year Green Bay had two newspapers, the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Green Bay News-Chronicle. The News-Chronicle was founded in 1972 as the Daily News, by Green Bay Press-Gazette employees on strike. The News-Chronicle ceased publication on June 3, 2005, eleven months after being purchased by the Gannett Company. When newspapers go away, a handful of people stop losing money. But no one is ever really better for it.