Dennis FitzSimmons and Andres Martinez Prove Their Cowardice
FitzSimmons has been ducking the protests against layoffs at the Tribune newspapers for some time. When he initiated the cost cutbacks last year, he didn't even have the guts to actually come downtown to the Times to announce them. He flew to the Burbank Airport and summoned the top Times editors there to let them in on the bad news. He was well away from Los Angeles before the news began to spread.
Now, when representives of MoveOn.Org tried to present 45,000 petition signatures against the layoffs to FitzSimmons at meetings in New York, he refused to accept them and security men quickly shut off the MoveOn.Org microphones.
Whatever they are paying FitzSimmons, it is too much. This pathetically weak man hasn't got the courage, obviously, to face the music. He is disgracing the already weak Tribune Co. day by day, and now, like some Latin caudillo, shuts himself off from any opposition. Kind of reminescent of Lyndon Johnson at the end.
Andres Martinez is following the same policy closely. At least under his ousted predecessor, Michael Kinsley, the L.A. Times editorial letters pages were open to critical letters about how the paper was operating.
In recent weeks, however, as a firestorm mounted in Los Angeles over the cutbacks in both personnel and quality at the Times, the letters pages have become as bland as the rest of the dumbed-down editorial pages.
Just today, we learn that Barbra Streisand's letter cancelling her subscription at the Times in protest against the firing of leftwing columnist Bob Scheer was run only in very truncated form. Streisand has now published the full letter on her own Website.
Shutting off negative mail is only the latest manifestation of Martinez's unwillingness to respond to the thousands of criticisms the Times has received in recent weeks. Appearing on the Olney show, for instance, Martinez clammed up about what real reasons he might have had for getting rid of Scheer and others on the editorial pages staff.
FitzSimmons and Martinez ultimately are going to have to go, with huge severance packages, no doubt.
All of this is just digging the Tribune hole deeper. The Op-Ed page has already become one of the nation's most boring.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports today, preliminary bidding is beginning for the Knight-Ridder newspapers, which has been under pressure from investors to sell some or all of its holdings.
If Knight-Ridder should command a decent price, maybe a Tribune sale will not be far behind.
Then FitzSimmons could move to Gary, Indiana, and help that municipality collect the garbage or perform some other task commensurate with his abilities.