This pains us in ways even we didn't know could happen: By the looks of this headline, the Daily News has finally wrapped its steely grips around LA.com, turning the sassy website into a flavorless, soulless portal. A cobbler story as the lead dining piece? Ugh. No offense to the writer (Natalie Haughton) or cobbler, which we find delicious. But that isn't the LA.com we knew and loved. Now it's as limp as a leafed-through, grease-stained paper abandoned at the coffee shop.
But this is personal. A little background: This editor helped launch LA.com in 2003, after several years at another cityguide. The Daily News owned the website, but it was younger, hipper, smart, stylish, and most importantly, it was its own entity. As one former co-worker put it, "It was a hotbed of talent." From the editors to the designers to those in charge, it really was. The restaurant scene was our beat, which we took by the tines and tried to boil it down to an honest, digestible bite. We tracked down the city's hottest chefs and restaurant personalities. We launched a dining newsletter that was equally useful and entertaining. We blogged restaurant gossip (we were the first to break where the Batali/Silverton project would go). We loved our job. Eventually, one needs to move on, and we did, but only after the Daily News laid off half of the LA.com staff and moved operations from a beautiful Westwood office to a dark, dank, brown one in Woodland Hills. And then the editor Laurie Pike moved on; style editor Mai Dinh moved to NYC. Lonny Pugh took the site under his wing and kept up the great dining coverage with smart, personable reviews, and Alexandra Le Tellier became the undisputed nightlife guru. They redesigned the site, which we don't love, but the content was still strong. Unfortunately, both left their posts recently. Two others dropped off, and now one last LA.com-as-we-know-it editor---who wasn't an original staffer but close---stands alone, watching it all go to shit.
Like fitting a square peg in a perfectly round hole, the Los Angeles News Group made LA.com it's "entertainment" product, using it to replace the entertainment/lifestyle pages in all of their newspapers in the area (there's nothing like turning to a printed newspaper page titled LA DOT COM). In return, restaurant reviews and cobbler stories are now fed into LA.com. It all seems ass-backwards. The Los Angeles Times at least has a credible web presence, and now Metromix has been added for the younger demo. Why would LANG muddle a youthful website with content meant for the aging readership? One answer: Money. Not that the "new" LA.com will generate more, but by using less people to populate more papers through one portal surely, in their eyes, saves them some. The site as we knew it has lost its sheen, its oomph. We normally wouldn't editorialize the loss of a good site gone bad, but several Eater readers have asked, "What's with LA.com?" So we feel this is deserving. RIP LA.com?RIP.