Sunday, June 22, 2008

Agonizing Wait For New Tribune Fuck-Ups At LAT

The evil Tribune Co. has never been up to running a newspaper in a world class city like Los Angeles, and now we may have come to another downward turning point in the sordid eight-year history of Tribune ownership of the L.A. Times.

At least, that is the feeling at what we fondly remember as Times-Mirror Square in the wake of closed door meetings held there last week by Randy Michaels, the newest executive named by Tribune to oversee matters as CEO.

Dennis FitzSimons is gone. Scott Smith is gone, and now it is up to Michaels to prove once and for all that Sam Zell and the new management have no idea what it is doing in L.A. New layoffs, and a foolish "redesign" dumbing down the paper would normally be expected.

Or NOT. It is always possible that the Tribune Co. may wake up and smell the roses, realizing that investment in the future of Tribune's largest newspaper is in order. (That would include fully maintaining its network of foreign and national news bureaus).

There were indeed rumors in Los Angeles last week that David Hiller, the Tribune toady sent out here as publisher in 2006, would be removed, and, perhaps as a sign of this, it was reported that Hiller's unethical move to take the L.A. Times magazine out from under the control of editorial has now been scrapped, and, for now, there will be no magazine and therefore no dispute over its control. This would be a little like killing the dog, so it could be mounted, but a new magazine dominated by advertisers would be worse than a dead dog.

A change in Tribune prospects could mean a vote of no confidence in Hiller, and, if so, could mean a start by him on a new phase in his life. I think he might be qualified to pick up the remains of the Montana cabin once owned by the Unibomber, that is if he would agree to take five years doing it.

Probably, a new publisher would mean a delay in the dreaded "redesign," which has already afflicted, and gone a long way to ruining the Orlando Sentinel, another paper victimized by the mismanagement of the Tribune Co.

Amother publisher would possibly want yet another editor than the nonentity chosen by Hiller. In the meantime, perhaps layoffs would be put off long enough to see a turnaround in bad times in the newspaper business.

So, I am perfectly willing to wait to see how it works out. We can hope for the best, even if we expect the worst from a company which has proved a fountain of ineptitude now for eight long years.

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Clark Hoyt, the often mistaken "Public Editor" at the New York Times, proves once again this morning that he doesn't know good journalism when he sees it, with an unmannerly assault on one of the most distinguished Times writers on the 2008 election campaign -- columnist Maureen Dowd.

Dowd was rivaled only by columnist Frank Rich in detailing what an unsatisfactory candidate for president Hillary Clinton was, before she was vanquished by Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination.

Now, Hoyt says that Dowd -- in my book, a candidate for Journalist of the Year -- was "over the top" in her coverage of Clinton with all her many warts, including tones reminiscent of Deep South racism.

Hoyt might consider transferring to the Tribune Co. executive, where bad journalism is so often appreciated. As for Dowd, her latest column was number two in readership on the New York Times Web site in recent days, and she frequently is the best read on the Web site. At a time when even the New York Times is losing readers, it can hardly afford to smear one of its columnists who is a leader in attracting readers.

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