Saturday, June 30, 2007

L.A. Times Editor Typically In Chicago For 6 Days

(Below: See Glasgow Airport terror attack)

In a flurry of bloggers reports, then denied, that L.A. Times editor James O'Shea had already designated assistant managing editor John Arthur to become a new managing editor of the Times, replacing the departing Doug Frantz, it became known on Friday that O'Shea was on his way to Chicago, where he would be for the next six days.

This is not surprising. O'Shea, sent out from Chicago at the age of 63 last fall to replace the ousted editor Dean Baquet, has never exactly moved to Los Angeles. His family remains in Chicago and O'Shea very frequently returns there on weekends and at other times. In the meantime, O'Shea is rarely seen out in the L.A. Times newsroom rubbing shoulders with the staff. He has hardly been a successful editor.

Word that at this critical time, when Times management is in limbo, O'Shea has chosen to take a long Fourth of July leave came from Arthur in an e-mail to LA Observed editor Kevin Roderick denying that, so far at least, he has gotten Frantz's job.

"Reports of my accension are premature, and possibly fabricated," the e-mail said. "I haven't spoken to Jim O'Shea or anybody else about this job. Jim is enroute to Chicago today. Jim is out of town until Thursday." Arthur went on to say that O'Shea had told associates that he would set about deciding who Frantz's replacement should be when he returned.

O'Shea himself had a terse response to one of the bloggers who had reported that Arthur would be his choice, saying in a message, merely, "You are wrong."

So O'Shea's projected return date is July 5, and Frantz's last day is July 6. (Frantz, a designee of Baquet for one of the two managing editor positions in 2005 -- the other is Leo Wolinsky -- is getting out of the L.A. Times maelstrom to become Middle East bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, based in Istanbul.).

There's been a report in recent days that O'Shea himself has not been getting along all that well with his inept bosses in Chicago, so, at his age and proven record at the Times of phony statements and unwillingness to resist cutbacks, it would not be shocking if O'Shea too is a shorttimer.

But, if he does return to name a new managing editor, I'm not sure Arthur would be the best choice. Arthur is pleasant, diligent, but not particularly dynamic. His supervisory responsibilities exercised up to now over such sections as Sports and Travel, hardly prove he has much imagination.

There is the impression that O'Shea and publisher David Hiller have feelings that their own tenures at the Times may not be long anyway. Everyone is waiting for Sam Zell, the new owner of the paper, to take charge, and possibly act to end the crisis of confidence at the Times and other fiormer Times-Mirror papers, which have been hit by severe revenue losses this year. The Times, in particular, is really in a period of limbo as an institution.

There was one report this week that Zell may be impatient for his deal to buy the Tribune Co. to be complete, so he can assert himself. But Zell, and a close business associate, are already on the Tribune board. amd their advice on what to do would probably not be ignored.

Getting rid of Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, a proven incompetent, should be Zell's first order of business. If FitzSimons goes, perhaps Hiller and O'Shea would not be far behind.

--

Word came this morning that, in a new incident, two men of reported South Asian descent intentionally rammed a burning SUV into the terminal at the Glasgow airport. The attack intensified the government's belief that some kind of Muslim terrorist operation was underway in Britain with the aim of destabilizing the new government of Gordon Brown, who took over from Tony Blair as Prime Minister just this week.

The British government raised the nation's security alert level to "critical," meaning additional terror attacks may be imminent, and airport security was tightened in the United States. Both the Glasgow and Liverpool airports were closed, and a security sweep late Saturday night netted two arrests in the north of England.

Five persons at the Glasgow airport were slightly injured in this morning's attack. Two men were taken into custody, one of them with severe burns. None of the alleged terrorists has yet been identified. The man hospitalized was later found to be wearing what was possibly a suicide belt, and authorities characterized the attack as a suicide mission. The injured man was reported by eyewitnesses to have been aflame after the car rammed the main door to the airline terminal and to have shouted, "Allah! Allah!"

So far, however, the attacks -- two bomb-filled cars left in London plus the ramming in Glasgow -- have not been entirely professional. It could be this is more of a homegrown operation, not one generated internationally by al-Qaeda, said some British security authorities. (Later, however, the first five persons arrested all turned out not to be of British origin).


The new prime minister called the nation "resolute." Still, Britain should have reacted more forcefully than it did earlier in the month when a group of British Muslims, demonstrating against the award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie, chanted, "Death to Rushdie, death to the Queen." Why should Britain, or any country, let people within its borders call for violence in this way?

An Islamist Web site said the events in Britain were tied to the Rushdie matter, but there was no immediate confirmation of that by British authorities. Still, a Pakistani minister had threatened suicide attacks in Britain in response to the Rushdie honor earlier this month..

Not for the first time, the L.A. Times Web site at 2 p.m. Pacific time was trailing behind the New York Times and CNN sites in reporting the aftermath of the incident and the increase to the security level in Britain to "critical." Later, the Times Web site caught up with others in the main story. Still, the Web site was using a wire service story on the stepup in U.S. airport security. There was no local story from LAX, although at least one of the cable news networks did have a story direct from LAX on the step-up of security there. All in all, on Saturday, the publisher, Hiller's, vow to improve the Times Web site dramatically was not much in evidence.

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