Saturday, June 28, 2008

L.A. Times Roll of Honor, Those Who Left, 51-63

In this day and age, it's quite often the victims rather than the barbaric aggressors who ultimately get the most attention. That's the way it is in Darfur, in Zimbabwe, at Ground Zero in New York, and, in the corporate world at Enron, Carter Hawley Hale, and other firms that have been destroyed by skulduggery and incompetence.

The Tribune Co. is headed the same way as other failed enterprises, under the same kind of control, a loon and his band of crackpots and sleazes who think they can pare down the news offerings of their newspapers, devote a higher percentage of pages to advertising, and still retain their readership. They will get their comeuppance in short order, (the L.A. Times under the evil Tribune Co. is already down 400,000 in daily circulation) but one terrible thing about it is that their employees will lose their livelihood and be forced to find new jobs, working for hopefully more enlightened people. The other terrible thing is that a whole city and state, Los Angeles and California will lose the public service that a good newspaper provides, reining in both government and private excesses.

This week, I've been discussing some of the talented people at the L.A. Times who have already been induced to take buyouts, often in the midst of their careers, or simply been laid off. They are far better people, of course, than the skunks who got rid of them, and they are supposed to actually own the company, but they are actually at the mercy of the neanderthals. And this is not the end. Just yesterday, the Tribune toady in Los Angeles, David Hiller, spoke of new layoffs, and the editor he named, Russ Stanton, unlike his predecessors, is unresisting. Stanton entered into a Faustian compact, and now will have to live with it the rest of his life.

I've already discussed 50 of the former employees, as listed by the courageous internal Ask Zell blog. and today and tomorrow will complete the discussions of 74 I knew well in the 39 years I was at the Times. My aim is to demonstrate clearly just what Los Angeles has lost in the purges committed by the damnable Tribune Co. since it purchased the paper eight years ago. (Zell only came along last year, replacing the inept and prejudiced Dennis FitzSimons, who, as CEO, started committing mayhem against the Times).

Roll of Honor:

51. Ruth Ryon. An engaging reporter in the Real Estate section, she worked many years for Dick Turpin, a longtime real estate editor and educational writer at the Times, who will soon celebrate his 90th birthday. He was fortunate enough to retire before the axe began to fall on the better paid and/or elderly employees. Ryon was a conscientious reporter, but, like so many, she was forced out when Tribune started cutting, cutting, cutting.

52. Kevin Sack. Dean Baquet, who had known him at the New York Times and admired his work, brought him to the L.A. Times after becoming editor, to work in the Atlanta bureau. Now, he is back at the New York Times, as is Baquet. Sack, like several other Pulitzer Prize winners, was treated with disdain by the Tribune ignoramuses. Sack has won two Pulitzers. At the L.A. Times, he and Alan Miller, who as noted a couple of days ago has also left the paper, won one of them for exploring crashes by an unsafe U.S. military airplane. Now, both Baquet and Sack have been replaced by less experienced, less skilled and, not coincidentally, more poorly paid personnel.

53. Robert Salladay. One of the more competent reporters in the Sacramento bureau, he is one of several who have been ushered out, despite their valuable understanding of the faltering state government.

54. Joel Sappell. An editor in several important coverages, including the energy crisis in California that grew out of power company deregulation, he was shuffled off to the Web site when Tribune promised to improve it, only to find he had little company support for the improvements, which naturally would have entailed hiring more staff. Sappell, who would certainly have stayed with the paper for many more years, left disillusioned, and, commendably, said so. He will certainly be missed. He usually said what he thought, not a popular thing to do at the Tribune Co. In a high point of his Times career, he authored the series on Scientology with Robert Welkos.

55. Molly Selvin. An admirable editorial writer, stood always for the highest ethics and strongest principles. Unceremoniously dumped by editorial page editor Andres Martinez in a contemptible purge that also affected others, she wrote elsewhere on the paper for awhile, but then took a buyout. The kind of person who should never lose her job, and certainly not to a squalid boss like Martinez, who lost his own job later after committing sexual peccadillos.

56. Jube Shriver. A Business section reporter who was developing into a fine journalist, and earning a better salary, just the kind of person Zell and Hiller don't like.

57. Stephanie Simon. One of the stars at the L.A. Times from the time she arrived, and most recently, the Midwestern correspondent based in St. Louis. Her stories often were on Page 1, and she traveled widely on her beat. She's now with the Wall Street Journal. She concluded wisely there was not much future for talent at the L.A. Times. An exceptional person, a Yale graduate, she cannot be successfully replaced.

58. Bill Sing. As Business section editor, he improved the section within limits and was an intelligent editor. First kicked upstairs and later left. After years of loyal service, he was one of many who were mistreated.

59. Frank Sotomayor. Along with the late Frank del Olmo, he fought for years for better coverage of Latino issues at the Times, and to advance able Latino writers. Always under-appreciated, despite his educational attainments and humanity, he was eventually sent to the useful Metro Pro minority journalists program in its somewhat waning years under Tribune. I always felt badly for him, because he was able and intelligent and a fine editor to deal with. At a more reasonable place, he would have been more successful. It is the paper's loss that he was not.

60. John Spano. The brother of travel writer Susan Spano, he was an assistant Metro editor who worked hard and conscientiously. A good journeyman of the kind the Times could not afford to lose. Very careful. Maybe, his sin was he was too loyal. Loyalty is not appreciated at Tribune.

61. Bill Stall. A Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer, after a distinguished career with the Associated Press in Sacramento and then with the Times, where he also served as political editor. Stall was terminated by the goofy editorial page editor, Andres Martinez, who, as mentioned above, ultimately lost his own job after committing sexual peccadillos. Martinez got rid of all three Pulitzer Prize winners on his editorial page staff. But Stall knows so much about state government that he still appears occasionally, and brilliantly, on the Op Ed page. His firing by Martinez was an utter disgrace, even more so because Martinez had been vying for the Pulitzer Stall actually won. It was a case of an inferior editor firing a superior writer.

62, Larry Stammer. An able reporter who undertook such thankless tasks as becoming a religion writer. Very knowledgable, he had been with the San Jose Mercury News in Sacramento before coming to the Times. He was also a skilled writer about politics. Very pleasant. Nice to have as a colleague, like so many of those who are now gone, were.

63. John Stewart. Long a copy editor on the National Desk, always interested in what was going on elsewhere in the paper. Very supportive and friendly.

All of these writers and editors, too, should be entered in the book of Tribune damnation.

Tomorrow: Rone Tempest, Wendy Thermos, Kevin Thomas, Mai Tran, Sam Howe Verhovek, Amy Wallace, Jenifer Warren. Henry Weinstein, Robert Welkos, Nona Yates, and Nora Zamichow.


The New York Times has a long story this morning by Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah about the imminent Taliban threat to take over the major Pakistani city of Peshawar. The rise of the terrorists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan threatens U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and world stability as a whole. Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state, which would have to be destroyed if its nuclear weapons fell into terrorist hands. The L.A. Times is presently ably represented in this critical theatre of the War on Terror by Laura King.

Early this morning, the Associated Press reports that Pakistani armed forces attacked the terrorists outside Peshawar. There have been many such operations, few of them successful.


Another day of announced layoffs in the newspaper business. The freely-distributed Palo Alto Daily News will fire six of its staff and suspend publication on Mondays. Tne San Jose Mercury News announced nine more terminations, and is now down 63% in staff overall.



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