It's been a bad month or two for music industry reporters at America's major daily newspapers. You probably remember the LA Times' retraction of Chuck Phillips' story on P. Diddy's responsibility for Tupac's shooting death. Now, the New York Times has cut beat reporter Jeff Leeds.
There's a few weird aspects of this. First there's the fact that firing your music biz reporter at this moment in time is a bit like firing your campaign trail reporter during an election year. Leeds has been a consistently solid reporter on the industry as evinced by this archive of his writing. Second, only four years ago — granted, a lifetime in newspaper land — the NY Times snatched Leeds from the LA Times in what was considered a large scale effort to make in-roads on west coast audiences. Oh let's reminisce with this 2004 post from our buddy in BLOGging, Nikki Finke.
In the past week, the NYT captured three other high-profile entertainment/culture writers from the LAT — film critic Manohla Dargis, music business writer Jeff Leeds and architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff. Already in the dumps over parent company Tribune Co.–ordered layoffs, the LAT newsroom was in a bunker mentality anticipating the dampening effect the NYT’s body snatching would have on its Pulitzer-pumped national prestige. And someone needs to argue with the LAT’s bean counters that the year-old controversial subscription model for its online Calendar coverage may be sending at least some of its superstar scribblers into the arms of the enemy.
The latest NYT moves on the LAT are part of a carefully thought-out campaign to make circulation inroads in the West and gain even more exposure in Hollywood. This does not come as a surprise to the LAT staff, either.
As one Calendar source rues, “We’d always heard that once it got its act together [post-Raines] The New York Times was coming to get us.”
So wha' happen? Leeds was a consistently great reporter on this beat for the LA Times. I'll admit I've noticed his pieces less in recent years. But is this because my news reading has increasingly transitioned to the web; because he just hasn't been getting his pieces published; or because he's lost his stuff?