L.A. Times City Columnist Moonlights as an Uber Driver

Steve Lopez had a fun and semi-financially rewarding time.

SteveLopezUberTwo weeks after Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner first learned via his car radio that he had been relieved of his Spring Street duties, one of the newspaper’s other bonafides, Steve Lopez, has written about the experience of working briefly as an UberX driver.

For many Angelenos, the day Lopez exits the paper will mark the true end of (L.A.) Times. So in a sense, this weekend’s feature about the city columnist’s ride-share driver stint is like a glimpse into the nightmare:

If I’m ever short on column material, I think I might turn on my driver’s app and go fishing for fares.

But money-wise, I didn’t strike gold. My 12 fares ranged from $4 to $44, and the take for nine hours of work was $153.30. Not bad, but Uber’s cut was $30.66, which left me with $122.64. That works out to $13.63 an hour, but let’s not forget the cost of gas, which comes out of my pocket.

That brought me down to $110 net, or $12.22 an hour. And I’m paying for the insurance and the wear and tear on my own car. It’s possible that with more practice, I’d do a better job of working the zones where heavy demand leads to price surges, especially late at night, but the competition for those fares is stiff.

And by the way, I didn’t get a single tip, perhaps because Uber’s pitch to customers is “there’s no need.”

Meanwhile, in the latest bit of deep-dive coverage of the L.A. Times September turmoil, NYT media reporter Ravi Somaiya hints that technology has not been the paper’s best friend:

[Current and former LAT, Tribune employees] also lamented the company’s digital technology was dated – specifically, among other things, that it was complex for readers to subscribe online, where other publications have more seamless systems, and that editors must file a corporate ticket to Chicago to make a change on the home page.

After the company introduced a new website infrastructure, known as NGUX, unique viewers to The Times website declined by nine percent, and page views overall by 17 percent, according to an internal document from early 2015 obtained by The New York Times.

The idea of a wealthy local individual stepping in to save the L.A. Times is constantly discussed. Maybe it’s time to add the name Travis Kalanick to that conversation.

[Screen grab via: latimes.com]