Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Turnout of Times People At Del Olmo Book Event Is Shamefully Low

The poor turnout of Times editorial staff at last night's Frank del Olmo book signing and first annual del Olmo lecture series was an embarrassment.

I may have missed a new staffer or two I didn't know, but my belief is that out of scores of Times reporters and editors invited to the event at the Japanese American National Museum, only two showed up, Frank Sotomayor, who was one of the speakers, and Henry Weinstein, who has long demonstrated the authentic interest in diversity that should be the case with all Times staff members.

They prepared a badge for me, reading "Retired Los Angeles Times," which, of course, is an accurate description. And a Times public relations executive was there, because the Times has helped with financing the del Olmo book, a handsome compilation of his outstanding columns. The diligent and conscientious Sotomayor is a co-editor of the del Olmo book.

I couldn't help but remember Shelby Coffey, former Times editor now living in the Washington, D.C. area. He truly believed in diversity and worked hard for it in his years at the Times. He definitely would have been there had he still been editor.

Frank del Olmo was an important member of the L.A. Times staff, and the manner of his death, of an apparent heart attack in the midst of the Times editorial offices, was one of the saddest events at the office in recent years. It happened just 16 months ago.

As Sotomayor recalled in his talk last night, he and del Olmo had been scheduled to meet to discuss important matters related to Latinos at the newspaper and in the Los Angeles community that very noon. Del Olmo suffered his attack just minutes before this meeting.

Manuel Valencia, the veteran Los Angeles PR man, told me that 300 people in all had been invited to last night's event, and about 100 RSVPd. Only about 50 showed up, a mostly Latino crowd, few Anglos in evidence. Valencia did not have the precise number of Times people invited by del Olmo's widow, Magdalena-Beltran del Olmo, a co-editor with Sotomayor, of the book, "Frank del Olmo, Commentaries on His Times." But he said he believed it was very substantial. It certainly was scores.

I know newspersons are busy. But remembering Frank del Olmo is important, and a respect by the white reporters and editors for Latino journalists in Los Angeles is very important. I hesitate to berate a staff for whom I have a great deal of respect, but last night's showing was pretty miserable.

The book is very handsome, but, of course, I have not yet had a chance to read it thoroughly.

3 Comments:

Blogger LukeFord said...

Dear Mr Reich,

I'd like to interview you about Frank del Olmo for my blog www.lukeford.net. lukeford at comcast dot net.

6/21/2005 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Tony Castro said...

Ken,
Frank's passing was truly sad, and we all mourned. But Luke Ford and a few other non-Latinos who have commented on Frank's death have raised a good point -- what big stories did Frank break? Or was his significance, as some have suggested, more having to do with pressing Affirmative Action and diversity at the Times? Over the past year or so, I have heard from a number of reporters and editors at the Times who privately have shared those concerns, all resembling a backlash similar to what we have seen in universities and other institutions to individuals whose role has been perceived as having been symbols for diversity instead of strong examples of substance. All that said, Frank at worst deserved a better symbolic show of hands from his former colleagues.

6/21/2005 11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two comments.

This, the same lukeford, who wrote the following below the day after del Olmo's death:

"It is sickening to see everybody falling over each other to applaud a racialist."

No big deal since his commentary is little below a Paris Hilton Carl's Jr. commercial.

As for Tony Castro. What stories did you break? Or, for that matter, lie about.

Remember this, Tony?

"Tony Castro's last line of defense was as ironic as it was cunning. Yes, he admitted to a federal district court in Los Angeles this past March, he had invented many of the stories he wrote for the nation's best-read supermarket tabloids. Yes, he had even invented the sources cited for those stories, and yes, he had authorized his employers to write checks to those sources, checks he had then cashed himself in bank accounts created for just that purpose, checks that totaled, over the course of four years, more than $200,000."

Del Olmo was not a hero because he "broke stories" but because he told the truth when it counted. Furthermore, he spoke with action by literally getting folks jobs in the field when the field had its doors closed to many folks.

Leave the del Olmo legacy in the hands of people who believe him rather than in the hands of two naysayers.

6/23/2005 1:09 PM  

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