Explaining Southern California's economy

LA Times gets fourth editor since 2005

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Los Angeles Times building in Downtown LA

I got in just in time today to discover that the Los Angeles Times continues to be a paper where top editors don't last very long anymore. Russ Stanton, who had been the paper's editor since 2007, "will step down," according to the LAT's own story. His successor is Davan Maharaj, currently the managing editor, who's been with the paper for 22 years. 

Maharaj is the LAT's 15th editor but its fourth since 2005. What's been abbreviating the tenure of the paper's top editors? Problems with Tribune Company management. In 2005, confronted with cost-cutting demands, former Baltimore Sun editor John Carroll left, later to resurface at Harvard's Kennedy School. 

Next up, former New York Timesman Dean Baquet — a Carroll hire — had a famous and by some accounts heroic standoff with Tribune over newsroom cuts. He went down and his by-then sympathetic publisher, Jeffrey Johnson, went with him. Baquet is now back at the New York Times. 

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Want to beat Apple's MacBook Air? Build a MUCH cheaper version!

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs (right) looks at a display of the new MacBook Air during an Apple special event at the company's headquarters on Oct. 20, 2010 in Cupertino, Calif.

Here's the LA Times' Tech blog on how utterly awesome the MacBook Air is:

[JP Morgan analyst Mark] Moskowitz said that ultrabooks continue to be highly discretionary devices and that pricing for rival offerings must fall below $800 before posing a real threat to the MacBook Air. And beyond price, he said, other devices simply don't look as good or offer as much.

"In our view, Apple's first mover advantage and optimized feature set and form factor command a higher price that early adopters, productivity users, and Apple enthusiasts are willing to absorb," he said. "In contrast, we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."

The MacBook Air costs $999 to $1,599. 

I've been using a MacBook Air for several months now and it's indeed a superb piece of technology. I'm not sure how anyone could beat it going toe-to-toe. That "below $800" projection for the future competition is notable. It would have to be well under $800! 

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Bad investors v. good investors in the California housing market

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A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home for sale.

This is from AP (via the Washington Post):

A new federal report shows that speculative real estate investors played a larger role than originally thought in driving the housing bubble that led to record foreclosures and sent economies plummeting in Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and other states.

Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that investors who used low-down-payment, subprime credit to purchase multiple residential properties helped inflate home prices and are largely to blame for the recession. The researchers said their findings focused on an “undocumented” dimension of the housing market crisis that had been previously overlooked as officials focused on how to contain the financial crisis, not what caused it.

The story goes on to point out that less swashbuckling investors in Nevada are now buying foreclosed, abandoned homes, "fixing them up" and selling them.

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The hippest, coolest part of venture capital comes to public media

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People work at computers in TechHub, an office space for technology start-up entrepreneurs in London, England.

This is one of the best ideas I've seen in a while: following on its establishment of an early-stage venture fund at the beginning of the year, the Knight Foundation has announced that it's going to fund a Public Media Accelerator, to the the tune of $2.5 million. It's clear what Knight is up to here: it's putting together a fully functioning venture capital metabolism for the non-profit space, with a focus on media. 

It used to be that you could think of VC in terms of early and later-stage funding. But the emergence of incubators, like Pasdena's own Idealab, and accelerators with a somewhat different funding model — they seek to identify, nurture, and develop startups at an extremely early stage, sometimes before an actual company even exists — has made it necessary for any entity that wants to mimic Silicon Valley to think more broadly. 

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Why public education finances in California are in bad shape

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Students may have trouble getting to class once federal trigger cuts slash $38 million from California's school transportation budget.

KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports today on the effect that anticipated "trigger cuts" to spending, due to a looming budget deficit in California, could have on funding to both K-12 and higher education:

The governor’s office may announce $2 billion in midyear cuts to state-funded agencies on Thursday. That’s likely to reduce state support for public education at every level from kindergarten through college.

The cuts are likely because the revenues state lawmakers had predicted never materialized. That means $100 million in cuts to the University of California and the Cal State systems. Student fees for community college would go up $10 a unit. School districts are figuring out how much money they’ll lose.

Charles Kerchner, an education researcher at Claremont Graduate University, says some public schools are better prepared than others. "It tends to be the case that school districts that have quieter politics tend to have bigger budget reserves."

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