Thursday, June 12, 2008

Harold Meyerson Says Zell Should Be Jailed

In perhaps the most anti-Sam Zell piece yet to appear, Harold Meyerson, formerly of the L.A. Weekly and now with the Washington Post, compares Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell with James McNamara, the man who bombed the L.A. Times, killing 21 pressmen, in 1910. Like McNamara, he writes, Zell ought to be sent to prison for life.

"Great newspapers take decades to build,"Meyerson writes. "We are discovering that they can be dismantled in relatively short order...In Zell, what Los Angeles has is a visiting Visigoth, whose civic influence is about as positive as that of the Crips, the Bloods and the Mexican Mafia. Life in San Quentin sounds about right."

Sounds a little extreme. Zell is a Chicago slumlord who didn't know anything about newspapers when he took over a few months ago, and has learned nothing since. Apparently, also, like his predecessor, Dennis FitzSimons, he also seems to bear a deep grudge against Los Angeles, or perhaps just a recognition that Los Angeles is a superior city to Chicago.

But if he would just sell out to some more socially responsible party, like Anthony Pellicano, I'd be inclined to forgive him. No jail term (as long, at least, as he paid back all the employees he had laid off).

What is the proof that Zell and his crew, Randy Michaels, David Hiller, the ignorant Russ Stanton, don't mean well is that even in the things they have promised to improve, like the Times Web site, there has been little or no improvement.

I was thinking about this the other day when I noticed that, unlike the New York Times Web site, the L.A. Times Web site doesn't list on its main page the columns that are running that day.

The New York Times editors are intelligent enough to realize that this is the era of the columnist. People want opinions, and the New York Times writers who stand out are Tom Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, Roger Cohen and others. When they appear, they are showcased.

The L.A. Times has some good columnists too -- Steve Lopez, George Skelton, Tim Rutten. Sandy Banks, David Lazarus. Yet, its woeful Web site isn't showcasing them.

There is a strong indication here that in revamping the paper, Zell, Hiller and Stanton are off on the wrong tack. They are fucking up the paper, not improving it.

As Meyerson writes, "A paper that is both an axiom and an ornament of Los Angeles life, that helps set the political, business and artistic agenda for one of America's two great world metropolises, is being shrunk and, if Zell continues to get his way, dumbed down."

Is this a jailable offense? I think not. Like most incompetents, they don't mean to do poorly. They are just screw ups who ought to pay with their jobs.

The days we could ride people like this out on a rail are probably behind us.

Still, if they have to be jailed, San Quentin is too good for them. I favor the maximum security federal prisons in Florence, Colorado and Marion, Illinois, where conditions are so rigorous many of the inmates go mad.

One possible grounds for jailing Zell would be his past record of virulent pot smoking. In reading the back issues of the Times since returning from my African cruise, I noticed the case of the poor San Diego woman who escaped from jail on drug offenses in 1976, led a salutary life as a wife and mother in San Diego all these years, but has now been discovered and is being sent back to prison, maybe for years.

It would be so much more socially desirable for Zell, Michaels, Hiller and Stanton to go in her stead. They too could use a bucket as a toilet. Now, we need the grounds. Could killing the Times be one?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meyerson's a sour grape and he's also a big part of the problem.

I'm a writer, I've lived in Los Angeles since early childhood, and I'm all for fucking up the Times. Take it back to what? The provincial, biased, wannabe-NY-Times rag it used to be? (now it's just a paler version of that).

It's about time the Times got dismantled. Long before Zell got there, they fired some good people and failed to fire some horrible writers. Besides, with the Internet maturing as a content provider and the daily paper concept becoming less and less relevant by the minute, who really needs that lame paper?

The LA Times needs to go away. And Zell's the guy to do it.

Sam Zell's my hero. Go, Zell, go!

6/12/2008 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another crazy post by a bitter and vulgar man. He might not have been forced out of the LA Times had his fellow newsies shown the grit and good sense to get union represention and with it a measure of clout. Now he rails impotently against management and gets known as a rightwing sour grapester.So what else is new?

6/13/2008 4:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you call Russ Stanton ignorant? Have you ever met him? He's a bright, energetic guy who is the right man for the right time. These people who wax nostalgic about the good ol' days of Otis Chandler are just living in the past. Marjorie Miller's comments after she left the Foreign Editor job were so telling. She said "foreign coverage is the heart and soul of the Lost (my emphasis) Angeles Times."
That says it all. When the heart and soul of a newspaper is not covering its own backyard, it's doomed to go the way of the dinos.

6/13/2008 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

The bottom line is this--whether you like or do not like The Times, however you may feel about the content or the writing--the paper is shrinking every month. It is being reduced drastically in size, capability, and reach. And that is bad for those of us who read it. Nick

6/13/2008 2:42 PM  
Anonymous another old fool said...

Amen, Nick.

I don't necessary like the L.A. Times. It could get pretty bad in "the good old days" but it was a decent read. It seemed circulation was good regardless of who was in charge or what got written. Now it looks like circulation is going south regardless who is in charge and what gets written.

As for the Times going away being a good thing, I disagree. Be careful of what you want, it might just come to pass.

6/14/2008 1:22 AM  

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