Friday, December 02, 2005

Al Martinez Column Good As Far As It Goes, But Anger Too Is Appropriate

The redoutable Al Martinez this morning joins Michael Hiltzik as a Times columnist with the courage to, at least indirectly, take on the Tribune Co. executives for their assault against the L.A. Times, the other Times-Mirror newspapers they purchased, and their own staff in Chicago.

The Martinez column is good as far as it goes.

"Worry and fear were palpable emotions during weeks of rumors that circulated throughout the domains of a newspaper once known as 'the velvet coffin' for the perks that characterized a place once rich and comfortable," Martinez writes. "It has taken the events of the past days to make us realize that the Chandlers no longer hold us in their cozy embrace."

And Martinez commisurates with those who have lost their jobs and now face a sad holiday season and an uncertain future. He remarks, "I have, at least until now, survived the turmoil and the sadness that many of my colleagues are being forced to confront."

Maybe, however, Martinez remains because the Chicago-toadying publisher, Jeff Johnson, didn't want to face even more unhappy letters than the 6,000 that reportedly came flooding into the paper when he fired Bob Scheer.

I said the column was good as far as it goes.

Maybe, there were some constraints on what Martinez felt he could write, and actually get into the paper.

But, more than sadness and regret, anger is an appropriate reaction to the Tribune assault. That was not in the Martinez column, at least not out front.

Here we have plutocrats interesteed only in a 25%, rather than 20%, annual profit, willing to sacrifice quality of their products and the happy lives of hundreds of their professional staff in order to obtain what they see as their business ends.

These morally-corrupted people are worthy of contempt and anger, and it should be expressed to them with all the means at our disposal.

Never mind, that as the Lehman Bros. circular said recently, it is bad policy as well. It is likely not to have the preferred result of more profits but actually to send the Tribune newspapers down into a further spiral of circulation and advertising losses.

Five years ago, the Times staff rose up in rebellion against the then-CEO of Times-Mirror, Mark Willes, when he entered into an unethical arrangement to share profits with the Staples Center from a special edition of the L.A. Times magazine.

After the rebellion resulted in the ouster of Willes, and (this has proved to be a disaster) the sale to the Tribune Co., the University of Oregon gave the Times staff a special award for its courage in standing up for journalistic ethics

But already the Tribune Co. was showing its contempt for the newspaper and the Times staff when it decided not to so much as print the news of the award in the Times.

I asked the editor, John Carroll, at the time why the award wasn't mentioned. He suggested it would be too boastful to print the news of such a prize, and passed up the omission as of little consequence.

The time has come, I feel, for another rebellion, one that must lead somehow to the paper being rescued by a new owner, dedicated to a quality product and to treating the staff decently.

How will this come about? Well, there is pressure now in the markets to sell newspaper chains, such as Knight-Ridder, which aren't doing well. The Times business section runs a story just today by Joseph Menn, reporting that a group of private equity firms, including two that own a share of the Orange County Register, are mulling over making a bid for Knight-Ridder.

If Knight-Ridder goes to a buyer, then I suspect the Tribune Co. can't be far behind. In his article, Steve Wasserman uses speculation that Dennis FitzSimmons, the CEO at the Tribunes, is only hanging on for now by his fingernails.

I hope he is slipping. A sale of the Times back to California interests may then be not as far off as it has seemed until recently. And then the Times foreign and national bureaus, and many other great things about the paper, will be saved.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you drunk or senile? It is clear you are a biter man with a narrow agenda. Why? I would love to understand why.

12/02/2005 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

Well Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, Mr Reich has taken the time to post a lengthy opinion about the LA Times. One you disagree with.

And you come up with "Are you drunk or senile?" Why don't you take the time to post
a counter argument? Personal attacks are
a symptom of the narrowest of minds.
You may in fact be the cause and/or the effect of the LA Times difficulties.

12/04/2005 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry you couldn't understood the post. Let me simplify for you. Where is the balance? Where is the other side of the discusion? Reich clearly has a personal axe to grind with LAT, that is all my post was meant to point out. If you read this blog on a regular basis, my point would be clear. Is that easier to understand, or do you still take this as a personal attack?

12/06/2005 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

You are correct...I am a newcomer to this blog. But I'm against language such as the 'drunk' remark in any discourse. It negates the argument.

There is always two sides. But after subscribing to the LA Times for many years, I simply could not continue as their undeniably biased journalism really diminished it. It probabably is transparent to those who are equally biased.

I don't think that was the point Mr. Reich was trying to make. But this blog seems a better vehicle than writing to the editors.

12/07/2005 9:26 AM  

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