Friday, December 29, 2006

Dean Baquet Is Journalist Of The Year; Michael Duffy Of Time Mistaken Journalist Of Year

After due reflection, I believe Dean Baquet, who took a courageous stand for the continued greatness of his newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, and got fired for it as editor by the usurping publisher, David Hiller, is the Journalist of the Year.

As soon as Hiller is removed back to Chicago by a new Times owner, should that blessed event take place, Baquet may be restored to his position. At least, we can all hope so.

A less honorable designation as the journalist who made the worst mistake of the year in his writings goes to Michael Duffy of Time magazine, who incorrectly predicted in a Dec. 11 cover story that President George W. Bush would make a "u-turn" in his Iraqi policies as a result of the Baker Commission report on conduct of the war. Duffy, pretending to know something he did not, compared the projected u-turn to Bush's earlier decision in life to quit drinking.

It was only one instance of Time adopting a policy of appeasement toward barbaric terrorists and a weak position on the life-and-death issues confronting the Middle East and the world. Richard Stengel, Time's new managing editor, was accessory to Duffy's false reporting.

Unfortunately, journalism is not always letter-perfect, that goes without saying.

But Baquet, as the L.A. Times editor who succeeded John Carroll, came close, as he consistently adhered to a principled stand against further cost cutting and layoffs directed by the Tribune Co., supervised by such members of an "axis of stupidity" as Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, and executives Scott Smith, James O'Shea and Hiller.

Even after Hiller replaced the honorable Jeff Johnson as publisher of the Times (Johnson had also publicly opposed the vile cost cutters) and not so subtly threatened Baquet, the courageous editor still appeared at a New Orleans convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and declared in a memorable speech that editors had a duty to resist cost cutting.

It was a difficult year in the newspaper business, but Baquet spoke with the full knowledge that many newspaper profit margins, including the L.A. Times, remained above 20%.

What a contrast with the greed and power-grabbing marked in FitzSimons' and Hiller's positions.

2006 was, temporarily, Hiller's chance for a few squalid minutes. We can hope that 2007 will be Baquet's return to his editorship and many glorious hours.

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