Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Miriam Pawel Departure, If True, Is Too Bad

Written from the former Portuguese Colony of Goa, India--

I'm sorry, if it's true that Miriam Pawel is leaving the L.A. Times, especially since her worthwhile articles on the UFW, the Farm Worker's Union. The Times dropped its labor beat last year. It needs writers who are interested in the issues of organized labor, even if they are sometimes critical of organized labor.

Pawel may not always have been a warm personality, but she was a competent Metro editor and, I think, deserved better than she received from Tribune Co. management.

Management for some years now, even before the lamentable purchase of the Times by Tribune, has been too quick in some instances to make personnel changes. This goes all the way back to Noel Greenwood, who changed things around as quickly as Joseph Stalin, and almost with the same degree of justice.

Pawel came out from Newsday in a rather mysterious selection by John Carroll as Metro editor. She began with careful interviews of the staff and reached her own independent conclusions as to whom she wanted to be close to.

But I personally found Pawel to be fair. On occasions I had something to say to her, she listened and, I felt, acted wisely. On the big stories, she was responsible. She asked the right questions. I had some qualms about the way she handled the energy crisis, but the Times, as a whole, did not do a particularly good job on that story.

The Times needs always to be fair and independent, and Pawel was, at least in my estimation. I have nothing against Janet Clayton, but I still felt that Carroll's sudden decision to give her Pawel's position was peculiar and may have been more closely related to Carroll's desire to bring Michael Kinsley to the editorial page, where Clayton had served ably.

Anyone can make mistakes and the selection of Kinsley, as it turned out, was a doozy.

Often, when someone is cast aside, as Carroll did with Pawel, they end up with a meaningless job and do nothing worthwhile again. It is best, ultimately, if they leave the paper rather than simply pull down a salary.

But Pawel went to work on a worthwhile project. The Times should have, over the years, paid more attention to the UFW, and there is nothing to indicate that Pawel's view of the organization was not accurate.

Also, I might point out, the evolution of affairs in the Latino community in California is of capital importance. I've felt before that the Times has not given enough attention to the subject, and, besides Pawel, management allowed George Ramos and Frank Sotomayor, who had great pride in their Times jobs, to go. I don't know if they agree with Pawel's view of the UFW. That is not so important as that the Times contribute substantively and frequently to a needed dialogue on Latino subjects.

Did Dean Baquet seek to keep Pawel or Sotomayor? Or did he let them go either by commission or omission? This is a question that needs to be asked.

In the meantime, I'm sorry to see Pawel depart, if indeed she is going. I tried before leaving on my present trip to Germany, India and New Zealand, to call her to discuss her situation, but she did not return my call. I would be happy to talk with her at length about her Times experience when I return.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken:

The Times' loss of George Ramos and Frank Sotomayor was a big gain for journalism education. George took the chairman's position at his alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; and Frank has joined the J-school at USC as a writing tutor. (I had been trying to recruit him literally since 1983; he finally succumbed to our blandishments.)

Ed Cray

2/02/2006 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pawel is an excellent reporter and writer, and she can be a very good editor. Alas, her Achilles heel is her management style. There is a cross-country trail of bitter and bruised reporters stretching from Melville, Long Island to L.A., who all cheered when she imploded. And, of course, there was the pig's head. Younger managers should take heed, for selfish reasons if nothing else: Miriam's immature, cliquey approach to leadership and shoddy treatment of her underlings torpedoed her promising career. As well it should have.

10/16/2007 9:55 AM  

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