Thursday, June 26, 2008

L.A. Times Roll of Honor--Those Who Left, 27-38

On a day that Sam Zell spoke of possibly selling the L.A. Times building, continuing his evil scheme of treating his largest newspaper as a poor, undeserving step child, I thought how worthwhile it was to continue honoring those talented reporters and editors whose lives have been so disrupted by the eight-year Tribune ownership.

So, here goes, with another 12 names:

Roll of Honor

27. Vernon Loeb. He came to Los Angeles at a time when investigative reporting was the Times' forte, in every expectation that he would play a decisive role as an editor supervising these projects. Instead, by the time he left, the Times had virtually abandoned that noble calling. He could have done so much. Instead, he's back East, and the paper is poorer for it.

28. Claudia Luther. Like many reporters, she had diverse assignments in her years with the Times, concluding with membership in the talented team under Jon Thurber that wrote obituaries. Some of the best obituaries in the country still run in the Times, one of the few sections of the paper that has maintained its quality under Tribune management. But she is now gone, and, just as with Loeb, the paper is poorer for it.

29. Eric Malnic. He was with the paper well over 40 years, and seemed indestructible. Whenever I would ask him how long he thought we would last, he'd always say, proudly, "We're still here." As a reporter of everything from weather stories to plane crashes, he did a sound, responsible job. As an editor, he could be somewhat draconian. Still, I always valued our friendship,, and his strong personality was much needed in the City Room. He did a great many things and did them well.

30. Tyler Marshall. He could have become foreign editor, had he wanted to. He filled a number of foreign assignments with humor and distinction. I knew him first in his role as the paper's correspondent in India, which he regarded as quite a challenge, both personal and professional. But he was tough. From India, he used to go to Afghanistan, never an easy country to cover. Later, he served in both Europe and elsewhere in Asia, before coming to the Washington bureau. After Zell is through, there may not be many foreign correspondents left at the paper. Marshall was one of the best of them.

31. Joe Mathews. He was one of John Carroll's favorites, and for good reason. The talented son of two distinguished journalists, Linda and Jay Mathews, and a former editor of the Harvard Crimson, Joe did fine work both in Los Angeles and Washington and developed an expertise on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that meant a lot to the newspaper. Losing people like him at such a young age would be difficult for any paper. For the Times, it approaches tragedy that he, and so many like him, have had to move on.

32. Rick Meyer. When something like the Gulf War came along, and stories were coming from all over the place, Meyer sat in Los Angeles and put them together. This is a mighty important role at any paper, that of the talented rewrite man, and Meyer followed in a great Times tradition that included Art Berman and Dial Torgerson. He did many other things well, but it was in this role in times of crisis that he shined. And always he was pleasant to deal with.

33. Alan Miller. He won a Pulitzer Prize in Washington for his work on military aircraft and other systems that didn't work. Rather self-effacing, he was one of these quiet newsmen that make a paper great. Losing him is no small loss.

34. John Montorio. When I recently lamented his departure, dismissed by the new editor, Russ Stanton, someone commented on my blog that this was a highly popular initial act on Stanton's part. I don't doubt it, because Montorio was a prickly personality, often sharp and arbitrary. But under him the Calendar section flourished and Tim Rutten and Patrick Goldstein wrote valuable columns that he encouraged. If you seek his monument, look around, an author once wrote about a dictator. Montorio may have sometimes been very much the boss, but he built great sections, and their decline since he left shows what his ouster meant.

35. Solomon Moore. Like Jean Guccione and Doug Smith, for a long time, he was stuck in the San Fernando Valley suburban section, but unlike them, he was often treated there with disdain. I remember when he started writing a few insurance stories, an editor there told me he didn't know anything about insurance. Instead, it was the editor who knew nothing about insurance. Like other black reporters, he had to struggle to be assigned non-black stories. But Moore persevered, finally found his way downtown and then abroad, as a valuable correspondent in both Africa and Iraq. He became someone the paper could not easily afford to lose, but it did.

36. Dave Morgan. Charming and able, he was a vital part of producing the Sports section every day, before it was cut back by editors outside Sports who didn't understand what the section meant to the Times' reputation. Finally, unfortunately, he left for Yahoo, and the paper remains poorer for it.

37. Lorenza Munoz. The daughter of Sergio Munoz and wife of Greg Krikorian, worked hard and produced excellent stories. She was in the process of becoming extremely able. Instead, someone else will get the benefit of her talents.

38. Sergio Munoz. He came to the Times from La Opinion, and was a distinguished part of the editorial page staff. He had encyclopedic knowledge of the Latino community and Latin America, and was free and candid in expressing his opinions. He once advised me that if I took a trip from Guatemala City to Panama City, I could easily be kidnapped somewhere along the way. Any California paper in the larger community needed more Latino voices, and he was certainly one of the most astute.

Tomorrow: Sonia Nazario, Jim Newton, Susan Okita, Myrna Oliver, Jonathan Peterson, Gina Piccolo, Gayle Pollard, Jeff Rabin, Michael Ramirez, Cecilia Rasmussen, David Rosenzweig and Alissa Rubin.

I just wish there were justice in the world. Then we could split Mark Willes' severance package amongst all these great journalists, and each one would get more than $1 million.

(Contrary to what someone has written as a comment on this blog, the quote I used in the paragraph on John Montorio came from the last words of Alan Bullock's biography of Adolf Hitler. I now feel I should not have used any quote likening Montorio, a highly honorable man, to any dictator, much less Hitler. Montorio was a strong leader of many Times sections. He deserves only compliments).


Rising on the speculative words of two Arab thugs -- Chakib Khalil, the Algerian who heads OPEC, and Shukri Guanem, chief oil minister of Libya -- the price of oil briefly crossed the $140-a-barrel price on the world's markets today. As I've stated before, the oil producers are at war with the rest of the world, and action should be taken to cut them off at the knees.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you seek his monument, look around" - if some author wrote that about some dictator, he was making a conscious reference to the original quote, which is the architect Christopher Wren's perhaps self-written epitaph, on his tomb at St. Paul's in London. Hard to fathom that a reporter and editor of long standing doesn't know this basic item.

6/26/2008 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and Bullock put that in quotes. He even quoted the Latin original and called Hitler "the architect of its [old Europe's] ruin." Obviously it was a conscious allusion to Wren's epitaph. Everyone knows the quote from Wren; relatively few know the borrowing by Bullock. Come on, Ken. If you want to compare Montorio to Hitler go ahead but as you say, "he built great sections" and the quote works better leaving it attributed to the architect.

6/27/2008 8:56 AM  

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