Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Load Of Crap From James O'Shea

A greater load of crap has seldom been unloaded on the L.A. Times staff than came this week from "editor" James O'Shea in an address to Times employees.

It was a dishonest speech, replete with misjudgments and failures to see things as they are, or to give the real reasons for things that have been happening, and it proves that O'Shea is unfit and ought to return home to Chicago. He could just as soon mismanage the Chicago Tribune.

If there ever was a case for sale of the Los Angeles Times back to people who really want to do something with the paper, it was inadvertently made by O'Shea.

Why do I say it was so dishonest? After all, everyone knows that the Times web site is deplorable, and there needs to be more concentration on it.

But in giving the reasons for this, O'Shea never mentions the woeful lack of backing and financing for website improvements that has emanated from the "axis of stupidity" in the Tribune executives in Chicago, their refusal to accede to repeated requests for more financing for a larger website staff, and for changes in the site.

O'Shea also managed to give a long speech and scarcely mention the Times' circulation losses of recent years, losses of 350,000 which have been exacerbated by the refusal of the Tribune executives to spend more than token amounts on promoting the paper. For years, according to a report by Leo Wolinsky, there was no budget at all for advertising for subscriptions, and, when something finally was spent, it was a pittance.

In a hypocritical attempt to associate himself with a journalistic hero, O'Shea refers during the talk to "my predecessor and friend, Dean Baquet." This reminds one of Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis speaking to the country with a bust of Abraham Lincoln conveniently situated behind him.

O'Shea had the effrontery in this speech to a knowledgeable staff, all too cognizant of Tribune failures, to blame what he calls "a cold, defensive, insular and conservative" newsroom on "the Willes era, the Staples Center, a determination to maintain the legacy of Otis Chandler." He never mentions the conspiracy in Chicago to denigrate the newspaper at every turn, to chop incessantly into the newspaper's quality and to wreck the good reputation that the Times built up over many years.

"Fuck you, you dirty scoundrel,!" I e-mailed to David Hiller on the day he fired Baquet. Now, the same thing can appropriately be said to James O'Shea.

Beyond not telling the truth about problems in the news room, this poor excuse for an editor shows on various occasions through his speech that he doesn't know a good story from a pedestrian one.

Referring to yesterday's Page one, he says, for example, that the story on the Oscar nominations by John Horn and Gina Piccolo provided "tightly-written context, analysis, interpretation and expertise."

It was, in fact, a mediocre story anybody might have written. Had O'Shea decent judgment, he could easily have referred to another story on the same page, the one by the able David Streitfeld, on the rising danger that Californians who have taken sub-prime loans will lose their homes as mortgage payments rise. That story was all the things that O'Shea credits to Piccolo and Horn.

It appears that like many hayseed Midwesterners who do not know Los Angeles, O'Shea is so mesmerized by the glamor of the movie industry that he is willing to accept every piece of pablum written about it.

Even in his promise of an improved travel section that will give Southern Californians more coverage of San Diego and Las Vegas, God help us, O'Shea shows he has no appreciation of the broader horizons of Californians.

I also, frankly, question the selection of both Joel Sappell and Russ Stanton to run the website. Sappell is able, but was obviously misplaced in this job, or at least not given the tools to do the job. Stanton, like Rick Wartzman, has been a mediocre editor of the Business section.

The prospect that everyone in the newsroom will now be expected to put the website first also is depressingly similar to the "synergy" that Tribune Co. said would mark the relationship between the L.A. Times and KTLA (Channel 5) when it first came to town after the purchase of the Times-Mirror papers in 2000. It never came to fruition, and without investment and much better skills, the website reforms won't take place either.

O'Shea, in a veiled hint of many more layoffs if no sale of the Times is made, also talks about declining advertising and profits, suggesting that, "At this rate, these double digit profit margins everyone cites, will be single digits, or be gone."

The Tribune Co. has been reaping vast sums from the Times while raising FitzSimons' bloated salary, setting aside $269 million for compensation of 50 executives should the company be sold, and seeking vainly to convince shareholders to bid up the stock price. Now, if the paper is not sold, it seems clear that this awful company -- which sent O'Shea and Hiller out here -- will intensify its cost cuts, its lay offs, its downgrading of editorial product, to the point that the paper, already greatly suffering, will be ruined.

It's time, as I say, that O'Shea get out of Los Angeles. He never had a good reason to be here in the first place. In the meantime, he should restrain himself from talking to the staff.



Anonymous Geezerlust said...

For more than 45 years I had the TIMES delivered to my home. I terminated them a few years ago due to their ommissions, slanting, bias and fact free reporting. The "news" was full of opinions with scant facts.

The memo was a perfect example of their problem. It was full of misspellings (no spellcheck or editors?), was incoherent, disorganized and worrrdy.

Their all purpose excuse is that "Our reporters write SO well that you don't need to question our competence or integrity."

Talk about Ivory Towers!


1/25/2007 1:13 PM  

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