Friday, June 27, 2008

L.A. Times Roll of Honor, Those Who Left, 38-50

(Bulletin precede: In his latest silly, stupid message, David Hiller, the so-called publisher of the L.A. Times, begins by saying that "the company's financial picture remains very difficult" and then suggests that the L.A. Times print edition will soon take a backseat to its Web site, thus justifying further layoffs. It is a prescription for the death of the paper, sooner rather than later.
It is Hiller, Sam Zell and other executives at the squalid Tribune Co., such as the Tulare twerp who sold his soul to become editor, who are failing. Every move they make is a wrong one. Is it necessary to remove this bunch of losers to save the paper? Certainly. Any step taken to rid Los Angeles of these bums would be justified. They are fools and knaves, make no mistake.

Although Hiller didn't say so, the L.A. Times remains the greatest profit center of Tribune. Moving away from a print edition that produces 90% of the newspaper's revenue to a Web site which, contrary to Hiller's promises has not been dramatically improved and continues to attract few ads, is a prescription for further failure).


Another day goes by, and more idiocy from Zell and his unfriendly band of eaters of bad Chicago food. Yesterday, it was an announcement of broad new layoffs at the Hartford Courant and the Baltimore Sun. So, it is certainly appropriate to continue my series on talented L.A. Times employees whose careers have been disrupted, forced out in the years of the evil Tribune ownership.

Roll of Honor:

39. Sonia Nazario. Her saga, "Enrique's Journey," about a Honduran teenager who crosses several borders against great odds to find his mother in the U.S., won Pulitzer Prizes for both writing and photography, and is becoming an HBO mini-series. In the days of Otis Chandler, Tom Johnson and Bill Thomas, Nazario could have written her books on the job and had them published in the paper. Now, under Tribune, there's no place for such writers, and almost all have left. The Tribune toady, Hiller, proclaimed at one point an interest in having the Times appeal more to the Latino community. Then, as usual, he showed it was all bushwa, by ushering talented Latinos out the door.

40. Jim Newton. A distinguished Times city and state reporter and editor for 19 years, most recently editor of the editorial pages, he can accurately be described as fed up with Hiller, his last supervisor. Now, he has a book contract to follow up his excellent biography of Earl Warren with a book about Dwight Eisenhower. He looks forward to his departure to Abilene, Kansas, to do the research. But any decent newspaper would have fallen all over itself to give Newton reason to stay, probably by making him editor and giving him real authority. Hiller would have had to go, but that would have been just another bonus of keeping Newton.

41. Susan Okita. Any great institution has many people in less exalted positions who do a good job. Okita for much of her Times career was in the wire room, where she impressed colleagues with her brightness and glamor. Later, she became a secretary. Now, she must be brightening some other office.

42. Myrna Oliver. The late great obituary writer Burt Folkart -- my pod mate for many years -- gave her refuge as an obituary writer when she was searching for a niche, and she became a diligent and eloquent one. Universally popular, she was the kind of person you want around the office, until Tribune took control and pushed her away. She came from John Wooden's state of Indiana and had many of his conservative virtues.

43. Jonathan Peterson. A Business and Washington writer, he covered Peter Ueberroth's effort to assist South Los Angeles to recover and develop from the 1992 riots. Useful in many ways.

44. Gina Piccolo. A biology major at Towson University in Maryland, later a physical therapist, she came to Los Angeles to find her fortune in journalism, worked hard for the Times community newspapers at a small salary and later became a talented movie critic. Always improving, she was just the kind of go-getter any decent newspaper would not want to lose. But like so many, she is now elsewhere.

45. Gayle Pollard. A writer for the editorial pages, she brought sensitivity and racial diversity to the job. Contributed to the paper in many ways.

46. Jeff Rabin. Conscientious, he had the peculiar idea he was a citizen in a worthwhile enterprise. Insisted on making his views known and was not a quiet employee. Since the Tribune Co. wants quiet ones who will take whatever shit they are given without complaint, he is no longer on the staff. But the newspaper is the loser.

47. Michael Ramirez. An idiosyncratic, conservative cartoonist, he was brought to the Times as a kind of counterpoint for Paul Conrad when that great cartoonist wore out his welcome with the smaller minds that came to dominate the paper's management. Ramirez was determined to follow his own path and was not all that popular with much of the staff. But his cartoons were often interesting. Now, with his departure, the Times dishonorably doesn't have a staff cartoonist. (Conrad, like Herblock at the Washington Post, continued to do cartoons well past retirement, and they were running widely, but not in the Times).

48. Cecilia Rasmussen. Her graceful articles on Los Angeles history were a valuable extra feature of the newspaper for many years. It is the poorer for no longer having her. Pleasant and popular.

49. David Rosenzweig. He was not the best liked city editor the paper ever had. He could be prickly and he may have focused the Metro section too much on crimes. Liked too often to say no to new ideas. But he was conscientious and honest. Even after he had to step down as city editor, he wrote usefully on the local justice system. We had our differences, but he was always fair to me, and we became friends. He died last year.

50. Alissa Rubin. One of the best correspondents the newspaper ever had in Iraq, the editors insisted that she go elsewhere. Instead, she resigned and joined the New York Times as one of their Baghdad correspondents. The Times has other very talented foreign correspondents still on staff, especially Kim Murphy (who is shortly to return to the U.S.), Borzou Daragahi and Megan Stack, but losing Rubin was unnecessary and unfortunate.

Tomorrow: Ruth Ryon, Kevin Sack, Robert Salladay, Joel Sappell, Molly Selvin, Jube Shriver, Stephanie Simon, Bill Sing, Frank Sotomayor, John Spano, Bill Stall, Larry Stammer, John Stewart.

Any great paper is made up of many different types of people, with many kinds of talent. Anyone who thinks, with all these losses, that the Times hasn't been badly hurt is deluding him or herself.

This afternoon, Zell was on CNBC mouthing extreme right wing views, among them let's do nothing, he said, to stem foreclosures in the mortgage scandal. Zell sounded in this interview like a fascist. A slumlord by profession, he may belong, as Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson suggested recently, in jail.



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