Depending on who's doing the counting and the methodology they're using, the L.A. Times will either be third or fourth on any given "daily newspaper circulation in the U.S." list, sometimes above and sometimes below the New York Times. This despite the fact that the New York Times is available nationally, whereas the L.A. Times is basically only distributed in southern California. This is mainly because, unlike New York City, Los Angeles is effectively a one-newspaper town. Although other local newspapers compete with the L.A. Times over portions of its circulation area, most notably the Orange County Register and the San Fernando Valley's Los Angeles Daily News, the Times not only the sole newspaper serving the entire metropolitan area, it's the sole newspaper serving the entire city of Los Angeles.
Anyway, by any measure, because the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today don't have one, the Los Angeles Times has the highest circulation comics section in the U.S., and that's what really counts.
The most notorious incident in the recent history of the Times involved the October 10, 1999 issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine, which was devoted entirely to the new Staples Center sports arena. Most readers didn't bat an eyelash at it, beyond noticing, perhaps, that the magazine was about 100 pages longer than usual due to a high amount of advertising. Sure, most of the articles read like puff pieces about the building, or its major tenants, the Lakers and the Kings, but that kind of writing wasn't atypical in the Sunday magazine section.
The Times had paid $2.5 million to $3 million to be a "founding partner" of Staples Center, which got them benefits that included advertising signage throughout the arena, the right to be the only newspaper sold on the property, and the obligatory luxury suite.
But, as soon reported by alternative newsweekly New Times L.A., the Times's deal with Staples Center also included certain considerations such as a certain amount of promotion of the arena in the newspaper. The special issue of the magazine was the first major promotion of the deal, and part of that deal included a 50/50 split of the advertising revenue generated by the magazine ($2.1 million, as it turned out).
There was immediate outrage over this when the story came out, since it hadn't just blurred the line between the editorial and advertising departments, it had essentially eliminated the line completely. The outrage came from both readers and Times employees, including some of the reporters and columnists whose stories about Staples Center had appeared in the magazine issue. Even former publisher Otis Chandler weighed in with a memo that was read aloud by the city editor in the newsroom despite the wishes of editor-in-chief Michael Parks.
The Times launched an investigation into the whole deal, and on December 20, published a 14-page report by media reporter David Shaw that laid most of the blame on Parks and publisher Kathryn Downing. New policies were adopted that specifically and clearly banned this sort of thing, and Parks and Downing were gone from the Times soon afterwards.
On March 13, 2000, the L.A. Times' parent company, Times Mirror, was purchased outright by Tribune Corporation for about $6 billion in cash and stock, putting the L.A. Times (and the other Times Mirror newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun and Newsday) under common ownership with the Chicago Tribune and the Orlando Sentinel, among others.
For readers of the Times, the new ownership has not made much difference. The main effects have been an increase in the number of articles reprinted from the Chicago Tribune and the use of advertisements for programs on local WB Network affiliate KTLA for space filling purposes. (KTLA was already owned by Tribune Corporation before the Times Mirror purchase.)
More obvious to readers have been cost-saving measures undertaken by the Times over the last few years, mainly due to redesigns to accommodate slightly narrower sheets of newsprint, but also measures such as discontinuing dozens of cable system-specific editions of the Sunday TV listings booklet in favor of a generic edition listing fewer channels.
Slightly more helpful have been a change to a full color weather map, and grouping news more logically in the A and B sections. Previously, local, metropolitan, and some state news appeared in the B section, with other state news appearing on a page called "California and the West" in the A section, along with some news from other Western states. After the redesign, the B section was renamed "California" and became the home for all local, metropolitan, and state news not of major enough importance to appear on the front page of the newspaper itself. The A section was divided into sections called "The World" and "The Nation," with news not taking place in California divided between those two places; for about six months after the events of September 11, 2001, a third section called "Response to Terror" also appeared daily.
The Times used to publish two "entertainment" sections six days a week. The Southern California Living section contained articles about style, fashion, gardening, etc., plus the three pages containing the comics, advice columns, bridge column, and puzzles, plus a daily page of stories and jokes for children; the Calendar section contains movie, TV, and music articles and reviews and the daily TV listings. On Saturday, the two sections were combined into an enlarged Calendar.
However, as of October 13, 2002, the Southern California Living was discontinued, with an enlarged Calendar section taking its features.
The Times produces special commercials intended to be shown in movie theaters, 60-second documentaries showing and describing some facet of movie production, such as stunt work or miniature making. Most theaters in the Los Angeles area show these commercials before every feature film in order to get a discount on the daily advertisements listing showtimes. These ads imply that articles similar to the commercials regularly appear in the Calendar section, which is not the case. Beginning in early 2002, promos for KTLA's WB Network programming were occasionally substituted for the Times ads, the only benefit being that Kristin Kreuk and Rose McGowan are more attractive than the guys talking about computer graphics.