Tuesday, September 26, 2006

At A Gathering Of L.A.'s Legal Elite, Broad Based Sentiment Against Tribune Co.

Monday night, a downtown gathering of Los Angeles' judicial and legal elite met to hear former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and State Appellate Court Judge Richard Mosk discuss the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-81 under the auspices of the first annual lecture honoring the memory of Judge Robert Weil.

The Daily Journal, but apparently not the L.A. Times, was present at this $125-per-person Downtown event, and I presume it will have a full report. I did not take notes, but Christopher explained the circumstances under which the Carter Administration struggled to cope with the seizure of American diplomats in Tehran, and the resulting election victory in 1980 of Ronald Reagan to the presidency. With Christopher acting as the main American negotiator in his capacity at that time as deputy Secretary of State, the hostages were eventually released, but America's reputation in the world also took a severe hit. We still feel the consequences of the hostage crisis today.

Mosk later was a member of the Iranian-American Arbitration panel that heard, for years, and continues to hear today, the two sides' financial claims against each other at meetings in The Hague. Mosk served for eight years on this panel.

Of course, Christopher was one of the 20 leading Los Angeles citizens whose letter two weeks ago suggested that the Tribune Co. should sell the L.A. Times, if its executives were not willing to meet their responsibilities in Los Angeles.

It was evident from talking to many of perhaps 200 people at a reception before the lecture that there was very broad based agreement that the Tribune Co. has been bad for Los Angeles and that the Times has deteriorated under its leadership. Many people remarked to me how sad it is what's happened to the Times.

Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons' lame reply to those who wrote, and to the rebellion against further Times cost cutting by Times editor Dean Baquet and publisher Jeff Johnson was accorded little if any respect.

Chicago, unlike Los Angeles, can't boast of having a former Secretary of State among its citizens, and one of the critical problems of the Tribune ownership is the same problem Richard Nixon had when he came to the presidency: Neither was up to the job which had been given. Both suffered from inferiority complexes. In both the Nixon and the Tribune case, psychologically they weren't ready for the big time.

It was an interesting lecture last night and I commend you to its full report. But just as interesting was the sentiment that has gathered in Los Angeles for ridding the city, and Southern California, of the Tribune ownership.



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