Friday PM: Still more Los Angeles Times roiling, this time from top editor Jim O’Shea who answers outgoing editorial editor Andrez Martinez’s “mud-slinging” at the paper’s newsroom reporters and editors, including O’Shea. In a memo entitled “What’s really important”, O’Shea gives a pep talk to the dispirited staff. (“You all should be so proud of yourselves and your paper. We can’t get distracted by noise from those on the sidelines.” Then he proceeds to list some recent accomplishments, prizes, etc.) But the top editor also squares his shoulders against Martinez’s Internet assault. “I’m not going to sit here like some silent lamb while he distorts my record and attacks this newspaper and my newsroom. I am not in charge of the editorial board of this newspaper. The editor of the editorial page reports directly and independently to Publisher David Hiller. That is as it should be. I strongly believe in the principle that separate editors should be in charge of news and opinion. To suggest that I told David Hiller I didn’t want the editorial board reporting to me on a “whim” is untrue. He is referring to part of a longer conversation with Nikki Finke, and to take my remarks out of context is unprofessional and sloppy. Moreover, no one in this newsroom is on a campaign to ‘storm the editorial page and bring it back into lockstep with the newsroom.’ It is true that we have journalists in the newsroom who don’t agree with Andres’ views on the ethical problems that led to his resignation. I count myself among them. But these are legitimate, genuine differences of opinion held by people with a passion for the news and this newspaper. To suggest otherwise is pitiful… Lastly, Andres suggests I came to Los Angeles as some sort of agent of Tribune Company to quell an ‘uprising by the imperial subjects’. To refer to the journalists at this newspaper in such a manner in an insult to hard-working people who happen to disagree with Andres. I came here because it was an honor to be selected to lead a great newspaper with an excellent staff in one of the most interesting cities in the world. I will stand on my record and credentials as a newsman and journalist. The suggestion that I make decisions simply to curry favor with the staff is also simply untrue. We face hard times. If I have to make decisions that are unpopular with the staff but in the best long-term interest of this newspaper, I will not hesitate to do make them. That is what leadership is about. I’ve said that openly from the day that I walked into this newsroom. I believe in full disclosure.”
Friday AM: Here’s another update on the chaos inside the Los Angeles Times post-Grazergate: Andrés Martinez (photo right) may have left the newspaper, but he is not slinking away quietly and he’s not surrendering to accusations of ethical violations. Instead, he’s using the Internet to attack not only the decisions and actions of the two Chicago Tribune guys sent in by embattled parent Tribune Co. to run the Los Angeles Times, publisher David Hiller and top editor Jim O’Shea, but also those of individual newsroom editors and reporters still smarting from their hero Dean Baquet’s unpopular ouster by the Chicago bosses. Martinez’s main charge is that the newsroom has been trying to dictate to the supposedly independent editorial/opinion/Op-Ed pages. The gloomy picture he paints is of a paper in the throes of internal turmoil, with Hiller (photo left) on one side, the newsroom on the other, and Martinez trapped inbetween. (Here’s my brief opinion.) My own new reporting shows that Martinez tried to bridge this gap Wednesday after the paper’s media reporter Jim Rainey was tipped to the potential scandal and started nosing around the editorial editor’s personal life. So Martinez took the unusual step of contacting the newsroom’s leader, LAT managing editor Doug Frantz, and explaining every step that led to Hollywood producer Brian Grazer’s selection as the first Current guest editor, including details on Martinez dating Grazer’s PRwoman. Frantz at first agreed with Martinez there was no story for Rainey to pursue. But instead of quelling the internal controversy, that resulted in even more newsroom consternation that the paper’s management would engage in a cover-up of the supposed scandal. Soon after Wednesday, not uncoincidentally, details about Grazergate were leaked onto the Internet via LAObserved.com (where LA Times newsroom staffers had also gone to complain about the Tribune Co. vs Baquet drama.) And Rainey’s story was going forward with Frantz on board now. (Martinez after his resignation used LAObserved.com today to fight back.
Fascinating how old media is using new media.
Editor O’Shea also became deeply involved; not only did the defiant newsroom voice their ethical concerns to him, but he took their arguments about a perception of conflict of interest to Hiller. (The dread “S” word was even raised: that 1999 Staples Center revenue-sharing scandal that brought down then LA Times‘ management and paved the way for the Chandler family sale of the paper to the Tribune Co.) Remember, Hiller had been kept apprised of every potential conflict of interest by Martinez posed by his dating Grazer’s flack yet didn’t see anything wrong with keeping Grazer’s Current guest-edit in the works. That is, until all this outside and internal Grazergate pressure pushed the publisher on Thursday morning to kill the now controversial Sunday section (rather than print it with a mortifying Editor’s Note attached) and cause Martinez’s resignation. Again, what’s so extraordinary is this public and private battling between the self-righteous newsroom and the self-immolating opinion pages. “Trouble is, O’Shea and Hiller are like military governors sent off to the far reaches of the empire to put down the latest uprising by the imperial subjects, and they have such a tenuous hold on the place,” Martinez emailed to LAObserved.com after midnight today, “living in fear that they will get macheted down themselves, they caved to a disgruntled newsroom that is annoyed at Chicago, annoyed at them and annoyed at the autonomy of the opinion pages.” Martinez even attacks top editor Jim O’Shea (and makes reference to my own previous reporting): “The arrival of editor Jim O’Shea from Chicago was a real setback. Early on he told Nikki Finke in an interview that he and Hiller had casually talked about whether to give him the editorial pages (as is the practice at the Tribune in Chicago) but Jim said no thanks, I have enough on my plate as it is. So much for our push to convince readers that this separation was a matter of principle rather than the editor’s whim.” By the way, last week when I reported on Grazer’s selection to guest-edit Current, I detailed the articles he would have presented: Pitbull entertainment litigator Marty Singer wrote a piece about the “power of allegations”; Eric Kandel, the 2000 Nobel prizewinner in psychotherapy and psychiatry, wrote about the “new biology of the mind”; psychologist Paul Ekman who’s a facial interpretation expert wrote about the subject of “catching liars”; Dalton Connelly, an NYU professor wrote about “race and gender in politics”; André Leon Talley, an editor at large at Vogue, wrote about “fashion and status”; and, finally, contemporary graphic designer Shepard Fairey created a drawing to illustrate the package. “My hope now is that we can find another way to present the results of our efforts to the audience it deserves,” Grazer said in a statement Thursday. All this LA Times infighting occurs, of course, against the backdrop of Tribune Co. putting itself up for sale; that uncertainty over who will ultimately own the LA Times (which, contrary to newsroom wishes, may not be locally controlled in the forseeable future) has been making the atmosphere inside the paper that much more toxic. FYI, I’m working on an analysis…
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