Monday, May 14, 2007

Kevin Sack Rejoins The New York Times

An announcement at the New York Times says that two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Sack is rejoining that newspaper to cover health care. He is the latest of several eminent L.A. Times writers and editors to leave the paper in recent months.

The lengthening list includes Alissa Rubin, now in Baghdad for the NYT, John Balzar, Lee Hotz, now with the Wall Street Journal, Vernon Loeb, now with the Washington Post, and, I believe, Solomon Moore, soon to be if he is not already with the New York Times..

And why should these journalists not leave as long as Tribune Co. CEO Dennis FitzSimons, is still in charge of tearing the L.A. Times to pieces? It is FitzSimons who dictated the latest round of cost cuts, a new buyout and likely layoffs, and it is Chicago toadies David Hiller and James O'Shea who rushed to catch up with him in the skulduggery.

I'd hoped that the new Tribune owner, Sam Zell, would intervene to stop this process and start investing in the Tribune newspapers again. FitzSimons, Heller and O'Shea hopefully would be dragged to the low levels they deserve. So far, however Zell hasn't acted, although he and an associate just went on the Tribune board, and they might act still.

Sack, like the late great Homer Bigart, is one of those rare newsmen who have won Pulitzers with different two papers.

It was Dean Baquet who brought him to the Times. He had worked with him and knew his talents, and Sack quickly became one of many Pulitzer winners in the John Carroll-Dean Baquet era, scoring with Alan Miller in a series on a flawed U.S. military plane that cost many lives.

But the Pulitzers did the L;A Times little if any good, because they provoked FitzSimons and his motley crew of Chicago executives only to go into fits of jealous rage. They hated the thought of the L.A. Times outshining the Chicago Tribune, and, sick with all the lousy Chicago food they were eating, they struck back with many steps to reduce the Times in size and quality. They failed to keep up circulation. Eventually, Carroll took early retirement in protest and Baquet was forced out after he defied the cost cutting orders.

These are sad times at the L.A. Times, although the paper continues to be good in many areas. Still, the dibs and drabs, the losses mount up and the paper gradually sinks. Kevin Sack is merely the latest loss. There will certainly be others.

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Pakistan continues to unravel, with a general strike following riots in Karachi that cost more than 40 lives over the weekend, and the murder of a U.S. soldier by a Pakistani soldier at a meeting on Pakistani territory near the Afghan border. The prospect, if Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf was ousted from power, could be the fall of the country's nuclear weapons into terrorist hands, confronting the U.S. and the rest of the world with a dire crisis.

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