Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hiller Firing 2 Men Of Principle, Looks For A Fool

I'm in debt to blogger Mayrav Saar for having obtained a remarkable document in which L.A. Times "publisher," David Hiller tells what he is looking for in a new editor after firing two principled editors in just 14 months. The next one, apparently, will be a man he feels he can fire just as easily.

Hiller graduated from Harvard Law School, but not every Harvard grad is another Sen. Barack Obama. There are quite a few who are unskillful, unwise and greedy. Hiller has enlisted himself in this group. Plus, he is a nut case. He has advocated making the Chicago Tribune a tabloid, supported concentration camps for Haitian and Cuban refugees and is a buddy and admirer of Ken Starr and Donald Rumsfeld.

Hiller writes, notably, in his prospectus for an editor: "We need to communicate closely, Always tell me what you think, especially if you disagree. If we always agreed, we wouldn't need both of us. Don't be public when we disagree, unless we talk about it first, or unless it's your swan song."

Saar has added the word "ouch" as a comment to this.

But in a long, blathering description by Hiller of what the new editor should join him in accepting as the Times' future, there is one highly significant omission, and that is any commitment whatsoever, any mention even, of the Times' extensive network of foreign and national bureaus.

The "focus," he writes, should be "relentlessly serving our audience in Los Angeles and Southern California."

For a man who fired editor James O'Shea after telling him at a lunch that the Times had to become "smaller and smaller," the emphasis on local and no mention of national and foreign is ominous.

Hiller was sent to Los Angeles by Dennis FitzSimons, then CEO of the falling Tribune Co., to cut down the Times to size, Like many Chicagoans, his horizons do not extend to Washington or abroad. To them, Al Capone is an historic figure.

And, now, he is apparently beginning the second part of his mission: Get rid of the Times' great strengths, its coverage of the nation and the world, and retire to covering how the garbage is collected, mainly Southern California news.

And watch Times circulation diminish to 100,000, if that.

For we live in a complicated and dangerous world. Under David Hiller, an atomic bomb could explode in Los Angeles, and the paper wouldn't have the staff to tell citizens here (those remaining alive) the background of what had happened.

So I don't think he's right about the future of the newspaper, and no principled editor could possibly agree with him about it.

Here's a man who, while admirably expanding the paper's Web site, has also cut out TV Guide, folded Opinion and the Book Review into a single truncated section, added worthless glitz like Image, while diminishing both the news hole and news gathering, and slashed what little remains of suburban coverage.

I'm waiting with a sense of forboding to see just who will agree to become editor under the circumstances of Hiller's prospectus. No one we know, or wish well for, I hope.

No, there is one thing necessary for the good of the Times now, and that is to send this jerk back to Chicago, and get a new publisher, loyal at least to the best traditions of the Times, remembering Otis Chandler and Tom Johnson.

"Fatuous" and "a pain in the ass," is the generous way a retired Timesman described Hiller earlier this week. I'd only add the phrase, "clear and present danger."

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3 Comments:

Anonymous another old fool said...

Intelligent, educated people I know who want to read a REAL newspaper are already getting the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times should upgrade to a local edition in Los Angeles. Los Angeles will not have a local paper in a few years. Chicago Tribune West probably will be out of business. But then, L.A. doesn't have an NFL team either. Does anybody really care other than local politicians.

1/24/2008 10:24 AM  
Anonymous McRib said...

Although (regrettably), I am within the city limits of Los Angeles, I found the LA Times failing a number of years ago and got rid of them.

I don't see any need for the expense and bother of an NFL team, or the whole of downtown Los Angeles, either.

A pox on the lot of them.

PS: The CRA never heard of South Central Los Angeles. What a joke they are.

1/24/2008 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a great Frontline or some other show about Hiller's destruction of the LA Times in which he first came off as reasonable and then a psycopath who revels in powermongering over people with families who need their jobs, like most of these little right-wing tin hitlers. I used to love the LA Times for its foreign and domestic coverage. i counted on it for great writing and in-depth analysis. Its no surprise that it was targeted by the moneyed elites of the right for destruction. The question is why aren't moneyed elites of the left putting their money behind a competitor? A better paper in LA could put this one out of its misery, and force this anus elsewhere.

2/14/2008 2:07 PM  

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