Saturday, June 11, 2005

Barry Munitz Article In L.A. Times Needed More Context

The article in the Los Angeles Times Friday, June 10, on the heavy spending and travel by Barry Munitz, the Getty's chief executive, was highly entertaining and the writers, Jason Felch, Robin Fields and Louise Roug, deserve kudos.

But this piece, long and monumental as it was, could have used more context.

The question that should have been examined was whether all of Munitz's spending helped the Getty obtain an expansion of its collections, which it currently needs to fill its mission. Many people visiting the Getty feel its collections are thin.

If Munitz goes to Florence first class with his wife and rents a villa, is he using that trip to buy Michelangelo's David? Just kidding, but you get the point.

Some chief executives do spend a lot and live very high, and this has become an issue in various prosecutions around the country. But we also see quite a few juries reluctant to convict, if it can be shown there was any business purpose whatsoever.

That is the question with Munitz. He is spending a lot of the Getty's money, but is the institution getting something in return?

We live in Los Angeles to a great extent in a Hollywood atmosphere. I remember how Times writers and others did a lot of "tsk tsking" over all the spending James Cameron did in producing "Titanic," but when it drew the greatest audience of any movie in history, it turned out to be worth it.

The Getty can't be a shrinking violet. In a dog eat dog world, it has to go out and obtain great art, and its directors probably can't do that going coach, not giving parties and not exchanging gifts.

Bill Thomas, when he was editor of the Times, used to regularly travel first class, as did many of his reporters, and he once told me he always made it a practice to stay in suites in hotels. He and other Times executives, such as Otis Chandler and Tony Day, used to often travel the world on fact finding trips, seeing world leaders. Was it worth it or was this over spending? I think it was worth it.

I'm not arguing the Munitz article should not have been written. It was definitely worthwhile, but it should have been written with a more sophisticated, world view, put in context and not have contained quite so much "Gee, whiz!"

1 Comments:

Blogger Brady Westwater said...

You hit the nail on the head! I thought I was the only one who noticed that the Times did a great job of of reseaching Munitz's person sins - but they missed the real story, how his short comings have crippled the Getty.

I have done four or five posts over the year on the Getty myself (as have many others) - but, so far, the Getty Board is quiet, and the LA Times doesn't seem inclined to do the necessary follow-up story, much less issue a call for action.

6/17/2005 1:14 PM  

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