Saturday, December 23, 2006

John Balzar And Alissa Rubin Leave The L.A. Times

Under the usurpers, David Hiller and James O'Shea, and the overall direction of the inept Dennis FitzSimons, all part of the Tribune Company's "axis of stupidity," we have to face the sad fact that talent will continue to drain away from the L.A. Times. Not until the paper is out of limbo and under new ownership, is there a good chance for revival.

The latest noteworthy departures are John Balzar and Alissa Rubin. Balzar is leaving after a distinguished career at the Times to become communications director for the Humane Society of the United States, and Rubin elected to drop her post as Paris bureau chief to return to Baghdad for the New York Times.

A less noteworthy departure is Rick Wartzman, who has been mediocre both as editor of the Business section and West magazine. He's the kind of loss the newspaper can live with, despite reports that West magazine may be cut back, just as other sections of the paper. Can we ever expect anything else from the squalid Tribune Co?

Balzar is circumspect about his departure, writing in an -e-mail, "Down the road, I may find the right opening to speak my mind about events that have taken such a toll on my colleagues, my community and what has been my craft for so long."

But I certainly hope, on his way out the door, Balzar will pause to give Hiller, the new publisher, a punch in the nose. This is what Dean Baquet should have done when Hiller fired him, but it is not too late for other staff members to step into the breach. If Hiller were to receive every punch he deserves as a sellout to corporate interests, he would be black and blue all over. The life of this Harvard Law School graduate is a shambles.

Balzar has had many great assignments for the L.A. Times, ranging from covering the dog races in Alaska to California and national politics, to stepping into the breach in East Africa in the wake of the Rwanda genocide.

We can all wish him well. And the same for Rubin. Let's face it, Paris for the L.A. Times under the Tribune Co., is no match for Baghdad for the New York Times. The food is better in Baghdad, and certainly the local President more estimable than Jacques Chirac.

For Hiller, O'Shea and FitzSimons, let's repeat the refrain, SELL THE PAPER AND DO IT NOW. And the Baltimore Sun, Newsday et. al. as well. No end to Tribune can come too soon. Its Chicago holdings do not need to be sold, but, preferably closed down. Chicago needs neither the Tribune nor the Cubs and they are not the kind of enterprises which would do credit to any other city.

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