Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Negative Outside Reaction To Hiller Purge

I love what normally restrained outsiders are saying about David Hiller's purge of James O'Shea, the third Los Angeles Times editor to lose his job in the last 30 months to the cost cutters and enemies of California who run the Tribune Co. They are waking up to what a loser this man is.

Kevin Roderick shed some of his customary inhibitions in expressing in LA Observed his understanding of the disaster that has befallen the Times since Hiller was sent here from Chicago to replace the fired publisher Jeff Johnson and can the distinguished editor who had had so much to do with winning multiple Pulitzer Prizes at the Times, Dean Baquet.

"If you add it up, as I did," Roderick declared, "the Los Angeles Times in less than a year has lost in abrupt fashion its editor, managing editor, Opinion editor, Metro editor, lead designer, top political columnist - Ron Brownstein, top science writer in Robert Lee Hotz, top black columnist in J.A. Adande, and its two most attractive bloggers in Bob Sipchen and Bob Salladay, plus much more. And that was supposed to be the year when the paper returned to making news for its journalism, not its drama."

The editor before Baquet, John Carroll, who was also in effect forced out, meanwhile declared that the instability at the L.A. Times "makes people cautious and worried. Cautious and worried people don't often produce the best journalism."

Rem Rieder in the American Journalism Review wrote that terminating O'Shea was "not too auspicious a start for the Sam Zell era at Tribune Co...

"Maybe, hold off on the Zellibrations...Whatever the back story, it is hardly a reassuring sign."

Rieder concluded, "It will be interesting to see who succeeds O'Shea. Some advice: rent, don't buy."

(There are reports today that Hiller may appoint either John Arthur or Russ Stanton as the new Times editor. Neither, however, is up to the standard of John Carroll or Dean Baquet, certainly, and the only apparent immediate advantage they would have over O'Shea is that at least they would stay in Los Angeles most of the time, instead of constantly returning home to Chicago to see their wives. If they want to prove at least their potential competence and integrity, they should stand clear of the editorship, because, if Hiller does the hiring, the new editor will be on the road to ultimate disgrace).

Editor and Publisher, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post all had skeptical articles about the events in Los Angeles. Howard Kurtz, the media critic at the Washington Post, said the Times was "in turmoil," and noted that, under Tribune Co., the newspaper's staff had gone from 1,200 to under 900, and its circulation from 1.1 million to 800,000.

"Chilling is the only word to describe the ouster of another top Los Angeles Times editor," wrote Body Politic columnist Joe Scott.

Others voicing concern were Times staff writer Stephanie Simon in St. Louis, former Times Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson, and retired Philadelphia Inquirer editor Gene Roberts.

And the anonymous reaction was worse. A retired Timesman called Hiller "fatuous" and "a pain in the ass."

Perhaps, as in the celebrated Orson Welles movie, "Citizen Kane," the key to understanding Hiller would be the word, "Rosebud." But "Rosebud," in this case, would not be a boyhood sled, but some Hollywood starlet Hiller may have met when he was out with Lindsay Lohan or one of the other celebrities he is obsessed with.

In another development today, Zell ordered all branches of the Tribune Co. to stop filtering the Internet for employees. Bravo! Now, maybe he will eventually take other steps to protect the interests of his employees, such as firing Hiller. I can't understand why Zell would have fired Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons immediately, and kept the man FitzSimons foisted on Los Angeles, Hiller, on the job.

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The L.A. Times was not the only newspaper in Southern California to take a hit over the weekend. The Orange County Register announced that at the end of the month it will fold its Business section into the main news section every day of the week except Sunday, and drop almost all stock market quotations. The Register, with 284,000 daily circulation, is the largest paper in the country to drop its Business section.

This happens at a time, of course, when the economy has moved to the very top of national concerns. In the ignorant quarters of the Register, they haven't apparently absorbed that.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Sipchen was an utter mouth-breathing moron ignorant even of the most basic facts of what he wrote. Good riddance to that over-the-hill trash, may he remain far away from Los Angeles--and any significant readership--for the rest of a moribund career that's circling the drain. I pity anyone who encounters the poor Sierra Club newsletter to which he has now decamped on the slide downward.

4/16/2008 1:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh--hah hah--I just read another posting of yours where I saw you trashed Sipchen as well. Amen to that; you are very correct, sir, and--yes--it's sadly only the ecosystem that's going to suffer now that he's with Sierra. :-D

4/16/2008 1:54 AM  

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