Tuesday, June 05, 2007

FitzSimons Gets Rich, While LAT Staff Suffers

Even as he gets rid of employees right and left, ruins numerous careers, kills columns, and downgrades the quality of his newspapers, the CEO of the Tribune Co., Dennis FitzSimons, is making himself richer.

Maybe, I'm wrong to continually call FitzSimons inept. When it comes to feathering his own nest, like many greedy corporate executives, he is all too skillful. It's just running newspapers that he knows nothing about.

Now, we learn, on the same day we hear the L.A. Times has killed another column, that FitzSimons has made $8.6 million selling 253,000 shares of Tribune stock back to the company in a stock buyback. Scott Smith, his sidekick, made $4 million in a similar transaction. So there we have it, these jerks are padding their own asses while plunging Tribune into bigger and bigger debt. The future for ordinary employees, or serfs as FitzSimons probably thinks of them, is probably more buyouts and layoffs.

Kevin Roderick, editor of LA Observed, continues to do a superb job of chronicling in great detail the deterioration of the Times as a newspaper. Today, he reports on the untimely demise of Rick Wartzman's column in the Times business section "for budget reasons."

I'm not a particular admirer of Wartzman, whose editorship of West magazine was pretty much of a failure, and whose column in Business could not begin to compare with such New York Times Business section columnists as Joe Nocera or David Carr, or even the former column in the Times by Michael Hiltzik.

But, still, as Roderick points out, Wartzman had made a deal for a column with Associate Times editor John Montorio, when he left the editorship of West magazine amid reports West will be gutted, and his new column at least was devoted to worthy matters.

Roderick notes that Wartzman used the column "to write often, though not exclusively, about labor, worker and class issues." and on May 11 called for a "real, honest debate about instituting a citywide living wage," a topic the rightward-tending Times publisher and Kevin Starr friend David Hiller in all likelihood is not too high on.

Now, Wartzman is out, the second demise of a columnist in two weeks.

The other, of course, was longtime Times columnist Al Martinez , told he was through after 30 years on the job not in a meeting with an editor but simply with a telephone call. Soon after that, Martinez had his e-mail address at the Times taken away, even before the two columns he was still given permission to write.

Now, I'm pleased to see, Times editor James O'Shea, after hundreds of readers protested Martinez' dismissal, and perhaps to do something to clean up the Calendar editor, Rich Nordwind's ineptitude in handling the matter, has offered Martinez a chance to continue his column once a week.

Thank goodness for that.

A lot, meanwhile, has been written about Rupert Murdoch's bid for the Wall Street Journal in recent weeks, and I was pleased to see the New York Times quote Murdoch as admitting that assurances of editorial independence he gave when he purchased the London Times a few years back "were not worth the paper they were printed on." And I was even more pleased when Times columnist Tim Rutten pointed out, in an excellent column last Saturday, that Murdoch sees that his papers take it easy on the dictatorial Chinese Communist regime, with which he does much business.

But Murdoch, reprehensible as he is, and I do think he is reprehensible, at least is not stupid like FitzSimons. He knows something about running newspapers, even if he often runs them in unsavory directions, and when he gets rich, often his papers prosper at the same time.

Finally, why are all these things happening at the Times--buyouts, firings, killing columns, gutting West magazine and on and on and on? Mainly, I think, so that FitzSimons can get rich on the backs of others.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"and perhaps to do something to clean up the Calendar editor, Rich Nordwind's ineptitude in handling the matter,"

OK, who was it? Nordwind or Montorio, as you said two posts earlier? I've known Rich a long time and I don't think he would have done it that way without following orders.

6/08/2007 2:27 PM  

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