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Outlook to Start Morning Edition

December 14, 1986|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Evening Outlook of Santa Monica will begin the New Year by introducing a morning edition, redesigning the newspaper, transferring production to the Daily Breeze plant in Torrance and laying off 40 people.

Owners of the 111-year-old Evening Outlook, which was purchased by the La Jolla-based Copley newspaper chain in 1983, also will reduce the number of editions from three to two and shorten the name to The Outlook, said Thomas J. Wafer, general manager for Copley's three Los Angeles County newspapers.

Printing the Outlook in Copley's Torrance plant will result in layoffs of 20 full-time and 20 part-time production employees and "substantial" savings for Copley, Wafer said.

Wafer would not specify how much money Copley expects to save in the move, in which 25 Outlook employees will transfer to Torrance, reducing the staff in Santa Monica to 240 employees.

Copley owns the Daily Breeze and the San Pedro News-Pilot, which has been printed at the Breeze plant since 1972, and 10 daily newspapers outside of Los Angeles County.

"The changes are designed to stimulate circulation growth and also to deliver a better product," Wafer said. "When Copley bought the paper, circulation had declined for several years. But we believed in the market" on the Westside.

The Outlook was established Oct. 13, 1875, by L. T. Fisher, a former Confederate soldier. On March 31, 1932, the newspaper was purchased by Samuel G. McClure and his son-in law, Jacob D. Funk.

The Outlook's circulation began to decline in the 1970s, dropping from 37,963 in March, 1978, to 33,149 in March, 1982, the last full year the paper was owned by the Funks, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, an industry auditing service. Circulation has slipped to 27,159 as of March 31, 1986.

Critics of the newspaper during the Funk years contended that the conservative family failed to appeal to the liberal Democratic constituency among Santa Monica residents in the 1970s.

An Independent Voice

Outlook managing editor Debra Austin and Wafer said Copley is committed to maintaining the Outlook as an independent editorial voice and will keep its news and advertising sales operations in Santa Monica.

Wafer said the Outlook's Santa Monica employees will continue to work out of the Outlook offices at Colorado Avenue and 20th Street. Copley will use part of the building to store rolls of newsprint, he said. No plans were announced for the Outlook's old printing press.

Newspaper consultant Eli Isenberg said the fact that Copley plans to keep a reporting staff in Santa Monica "tells me they are going to stay there" rather than merge the Outlook with the larger Daily Breeze, which reported evening circulation of 92,218 and Sunday circulation of 128,452 as of Sept. 30, 1985.

"I'd be surprised if Copley dropped the Santa Monica character of the newspaper," he said. "If they had cut out the editorial (staff), then I would say they are not going to stay there."

Centralized Computer

Wafer said a new computer system installed at Copley's three Los Angeles-based newspapers will enable one editor in Torrance to edit wire service stories for all three papers.

"What we are looking to do is get rid of duplication of effort," Austin said.

"In areas that we can, we will have common wire pages," Wafer said. "But we would not do anything to take away from the local news aspect of the product. It would be foolhardy to shove a Torrance paper down the Westsiders' throats."

Printing the Outlook in Torrance will enable Copley to produce a morning edition for street sale as of 6 a.m., Wafer said. The Outlook will continue to produce an afternoon edition for home delivery but will eliminate its two afternoon street editions at the end of the month.

The Outlook's coverage area extends from Malibu in the north to Los Angeles International Airport in the south and from the ocean east to Beverly Hills and Culver City, Austin said. As part of the new Outlook, the paper will offer expanded sports and business sections, but there are no immediate plans to increase its reporting staff, she said.

The Outlook's move to a morning edition "is part of an industry trend," said Allen McCombs, a former president of the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. "More and more dailies apparently feel that people have changed their commute, work and television habits," he said. "There seems to be a feeling that morning papers attract more readership."

Many afternoon newspapers in the United States have moved to production of morning editions because of the increasing difficulty of delivering papers in sometimes dense afternoon traffic, Isenberg said.

Alan Katz, a Santa Monica city councilman, said the changes planned for the Outlook will not affect the newspaper's role in Santa Monica. "It is useful for citizens seeking to educate themselves to have a daily that covers not only stories when they break but more stories than The Times can, which is serving a broader audience only twice a week," he said.

"The lack of a final edition does not in any way reflect a moving away from covering Santa Monica," Katz said. "The loss of an edition will not harm Santa Monica, the loss of the Outlook would."

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