My new column, Goodbye Baquet, Hello O’Shea, [plus today’s 1st update and 2nd update] features an interview with recently installed Los Angeles Times editor Jim O’Shea. (I’ll be posting the full Q-and-A online here tomorrow.) And the Chicagoan came out fighting. He had some very angry words for his counterpart at The New York Times, Bill Keller, who’s been trash-talkin’ a lot in recent days. Another surprise is that O’Shea resisted the opportunity to expand his turf to include the editorial/opinion pages. LAT editor John Carroll had been in charge of that section, but not Dean Baquet. “And when I came here, the new publisher David Hiller said to me, ‘Do you think we ought to change that since the Chicago Tribune editor oversees it?” And I said ‘No.’” O’Shea explained he had “enough mud on my shoes” without navigating that terrain, too. (Meanwhile, I urge Dean Baquet to come clean about the real nature of the too-close relationship he had with the Billionaire Boys Club — Burkle, Broad, Geffen, etc. — whom he and/or his surrogates were actively wooing to return the LAT to local ownership.) Besides focused on fixing the LAT‘s state-of-disaster website and increasing its near nonexistent local coverage, O’Shea wants to do something about the paper’s coma-inducing reporting and writing. “There’s some pretty well-written stuff in the paper. But my emphasis is on shorter articles. People don’t have a lot of time. So I’ve been saying to editors that we don’t work hard enough for readers. We need to give them the information up front and fast so they can make a decision about whether they want to read the story.” Also, I found it amusing how quickly O’Shea has adopted the SoCal lifestyle: He moved from a downtown hotel (“It was kinda depressing”) to a month-to-month furnished rental in Pasadena and now has leased a Manhattan Beach condo and a Lexus. “I’ve even found myself sitting here and debating, ‘Should I go to Chicago this weekend?’ Because when I look at the ocean out there, I think, ‘What’s the point of going somewhere else?’’ He rode along with the police one night into South-Central and Rampart and, admits that Los Angeles was ‘a culture shock’ but now says, ‘Holy cow, how do you cover it?’. Here’s how my column starts out:
“It’s a lot like those grainy tokusatsu kaiju, sci-fi horror films where the gigantic mutant dinosaurs — or, in this case, ‘newsosaurs’ — spend most of their screen time beating the crap out of each other when what they really should be doing is fighting those outside forces that threaten their very survival. So it was with a mixture of amusement and bewilderment that I watched The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times re-engage each other the past week in a battle for personnel within the incredibly shrinking world of print media. On Tuesday, the NYT made a big freaking deal about what was a foregone conclusion: bringing back fired LAT editor Dean Baquet, this time as Washington bureau chief and assistant managing editor. It followed New York Times executive editor Bill Keller’s very public boast about how anyone at the LAT was his for the taking. In reaction, new LAT editor Jim O’Shea (photo, left) angrily told me Tuesday he’s fed up with Keller (photo, below). ‘Somebody sitting in New York isn’t a god of journalism. I personally don’t take shots at their paper. I don’t feel that enhances my stature as an editor. And, so, if someone feels that’s how they have to play big, then that’s their business,’ said O’Shea. ‘“But it’s posturing. He thinks I’m going to let them pick me off? I’m telling you right now I’m going to fight hard to keep everyone I’ve got. We’re just as good as the NYT. Believe me, working there isn’t a walk in the park, either.’ Yet how ironic that the future of both papers is similarly precarious now that Wall Street is pressuring their parent companies over lousy financial performances… ‘For all their sense of superiority, the New York Times Company’s problems with the Boston Globe are not unlike Tribune’s problems with the L.A. Times,’ O’Shea said. ‘The only difference is that we still have the ownership situation uncertain. Until that’s clarified, I don’t know what the future holds. I should add, for the paper or for me.'”
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