Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Ken Starr Crony David Hiller Has Certainly Been A Right Winger

We are getting to know more about David Hiller, the hatchet man sent out here by an ugly executive of the worst stripe, Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons, to deal further body blows to the quality of the Los Angeles Times.

It's not pretty. Nikki Finke and John Amato tell us that one of Hiller's chief distinctions was that he once urged setting up concentration camps for Haitian and Cuban refugees. While at the Justice Department in the Reagan Administration, he worked with Ken Starr, later the persecutor of President Clinton, and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, who in his first term at the high court sank to being as much to the right as Justices Scalia and Thomas.

This is not a man who is qualified to become publisher of the L.A. Times, even if he had not, as publisher of the Chicago Tribune, talked of making that paper a tabloid. He is another Mark Willes, with little experience in journalism.

So, it is understandable that at the Times, all sorts of efforts are underway to counteract the views of the Ugly Chicagoan and to support the courageous editor, Dean Baquet, who, against all odds, has apparently decided to stay on for now.

Thanks to the courageous Vernon Loeb, Frank Clifford, Henry Weinstein and Jim Newton, a new employee petition is being circulated to demonstrate the solidarity of the staff with Baquet, criticize the disgraceful termination of publisher Jeffrey Johnson and oppose further cutbacks.

Also, as Kevin Roderick reports in L.A. Observed this morning, a number of Times foreign correspondents are sporting Baquet T-shirts.

The L.A. Times editorial page meanwhile today runs several letters lamenting Tribune changes at the newspaper.

And Tim Rutten has weighed in with yet another well reasoned column about the importance of newspapers and the stakes for American Democracy if a newspaper like the Times is allowed to fail.

Is all this making an impression in Chicago? Perhaps not more than Mahatma Gandhi's letter to Adolf Hitler did in 1939. Gandhi pleaded for peace, but Hitler went right ahead with his plans for war. And it could be that FitzSimons is just as impervious to pressure as a Fascist thug. Here is a man who seems to care more for his salary and perks than doing a responsible job as CEO of a major news organization.

Tom Mulligan writes in today's L.A. Times Business section that Tribune seems determined not to sell the L.A. Times piecemeal, though he does say that the committee of Tribune directors appointed to examine the company's prospects, might be prepared to sell the company whole. He speculates that private equity investors may be more interested in such a purchase than they were to purchase Knight-Ridder, and he also alludes to the fact that perspective Los Angeles investors like Eli Broad or David Geffen could put together a team to buy all of Tribune.

Mulligan doesn't say so, but if a California group bought Tribune, it would open an opportunity to screw the Chicago Tribune as badly as the Tribune Co. has screwed the L.A. Times. The corporate headquarters would move to Los Angeles, and the Tribune building in Chicago could be sold, perhaps to a mobster.

And yet, we just don't know. It might be that behind the scenes, FitzSimons is about to quit and dismember Tribune with a series of sales. But it might be he and Scott Smith will hold on to a day of final reckoning, when the whole empire collapses. They seem many times to be deadenders.

Whatever is the case, there can be no real hope that Hiller will prove as convertible to the virtues of living in California and the Times as a great newspaper as John Puerner or Jeff Johnson, who publishers sent here from Chicago, went native and were finally forced out.

No, Hiller is more like a supervisor sent to one of those concentration camps he wanted to form. We cannot count on him to be either reasonable or humane. Los Angeles must be rid of him--as soon as possible.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Joe Zekas said...

Ken,

I used to enjoy reading you, but you seem to be losing your grip on it.

Hiller's a "crony" of Ken Starr's because they served in the Justice Department together?

He wanted to form concentration camps?

You're one step away - and it may be on the wrong side - from losing any or all of your readers to this wild bombast. Certainly you're one post away from losing me.

10/08/2006 4:36 PM  
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