David Lauter Would Not Have Been My Choice For Deputy Foreign Editor
My own experience with Lauter was not a pleasant one. He was mainly responsible for editing that dumbed down badly a story on the 10th Anniversary of the Northridge earthquake in which I tried to show that California was less prepared for a major quake than it had been for Northridge. That was the clear conclusion of most of those who I had interviewed. Lauter changed the story to remove critical elements from the lead paragraphs and made the story a mishmash while I was absent on a trip to South America. When I returned and filed a written protest, he never clearly responded (and neither did anybody else).
Also, I felt that Lauter's supervision as political editor of the 1996 national political campaign marked him as too bland. He was reluctant to let chips fall where they might and seize on what dramatic elements did exist in what admittedly was not the best, most scintillating political campaign the nation had seen. This was the campaign between President Bill Clinton and challenger Bob Dole.
Clinton not only was a rather corrupt President. But he was weak in the run up to the War on Terror, and backed away from a timely attempt to do something about the deplorable state of the national health system. Times coverage did not fully examine his failings.
It may be that removing Lauter from the Metro staff will improve its quality. He was at times a key part of a deplorable bureaucracy. But foreign coverage is the very essence of overall Times quality. I hate to see him move to a position closer to the top.
There is nothing wrong with Lauter's general intelligence, and he is a hard worker. I hope that under Miller, he does what he is told and does not let a tendency to change the hard facts of stories interfere with the paper's normally good foreign coverage.