Friday, June 06, 2008

Zell, Stanton Practice The Big Lie At L.A. Times

When Sam Zell and his fellow-butchers, Randy Michael and Russ Stanton, issued memos and made statements this week about the newspapers they intend to drastically downsize -- most notably the Los Angeles Times -- they practiced the "Big Lie" technique of tyrants.

The very salutation to the staffs of the Zell-Michaels memo, "Partners," has a Stalinist ring to it. Stalin used to call the millions of people he was about to murder a similar name -- "Comrades." In 1936, as he began the worst of his purges, Stalin said he was building democracy.

Just so with Zell and Michaels. In announcing they will slash the news hole in their newspapers to a 50-50 ratio, ads and news, they pretend to be modeling them to the future, but they are throwing excrement into the faces of everyone who works for them and every 0ne of the diminishing number who still read the papers. (Michaels said today that 82 pages of news a week would be deleted from the L.A. Times and 500 pages from Tribune newspapers all-told).

When their lackey, Stanton, claims that morale at the Times is improving, as he did this week, that is not only delusional. It is a lie, pure and simple. And when Stanton says, "I get that we may have to be a smaller news organization here at some point in the near future," he is saying that he will do whatever he is told without a peep of protest. Could he be fighting behind the scenes? There is little or no sign of it.

This contemptible Tulare twerp is now paying the price for allowing ambition to take complete hold of his squalid personality. He sold his soul like Faust when he took the editorship that the "publisher," another lackey, David Hiller, offered him.

Meanwhile, day by day, there are examples of conscientious journalists who are bailing out. Just this week, Jim Newton and Marjorie Miller stepped down as editorial pages editor and foreign editor, respectively. And Tom Mulligan, who struggled against all odds, to cover the failures of the evil Tribune Co. in articles which were necessarily inadequate to convey the enormity of what was happening, has quit to go to other, more honorable employment.

Meanwhile, word comes from back East that Zell and Michaels intend to turn the venerable Baltimore Sun into a tabloid.

How fortunate Newsday was to be sold. It's getting out from under the grip of these crazies. By the time Tribune Co. fails and is forced out of Los Angeles, it may be too late to save the Times.

I'm indebted to the normally restrained and always responsible Kevin Roderick at LA Observed yesterday for telling it like it is.

"Tribune bosses Sam Zell and Randy Michaels finally reveal today their agenda for the Times," he writes. "The plan is to cut way back on pages, so the ratio of space devoted to ads and content is 50-50 and to reduce staffers based on the theory that they are less 'productive' at the LAT than at smaller papers.

"Ugh," says the carefully accurate Roderick. "Zell and Michaels seem to think that covering the world, Washington and in-depth investigations should take no more time and resources than the crap their other papers churn out. It doesn't work that way. Basically, it sounds as if they have learned nothing from the generations of newspaper editors and publishers who figured it out before -- and who actually made tons of money doing it. The Zell long-range model now looks to be less content and less exclusive content, with less depth to that content, produced by less experienced people and delivered to readers in less attractive packages. Yeah, the magic formula to turn around the spiral."

It is, as I suggest with my customary restraint, murder. Murder of the L.A. Times and everything it stood for under Otis Chandler, Nick Williams, Tom Johnson and Bill Thomas. Treating the readers as if they were all ignorant simpletons like Russ Stanton.

I notice, by the way, that Marjorie Miller says she intends to become a senior writer. That was precisely the title they gave the late Tony Day when they put him out to pasture.

Pardon me, I want more for Marjorie than that. She will find she has no choice but to follow others outside the paper. There is the note of defiance when she says in her memo, that foreign news is the heart and soul of the L.A. Times, knowing that Zell and his minions are conspiring to forget it. Now, she will find that she must take the next step and go somewhere where her talents will be appreciated.

There is nothing dishonorable in escaping from a sinking ship. Had Einstein not fled Germany, we might not ever been able to build the atomic bomb that put an end to the last of the 20th Century Fascist dictators.

This has been a bad week, and not only for the L.A. Times and other Tribune-owned newspapers, But, of course, life will go on, and resistance is bound to mount. Fighting the Stalinists is always noble.

It might be wise for remaining Times employees to hire a lawyer. Zell is also, among his many other exploits, fixing to steal their pensions by running the company into the ground. I suspect that as a matter of law, there must be something illegal in this.

That's a good thought with which to end today -- that this son of a bitch and his cohorts may end up in jail.


Ron Brownstein again demonstrates today that he is a mediocre political writer, one of the few departures that the L.A. Times is well rid of, when he writes on the Times Op Ed Page that Hillary Clinton would have been a safer candidate than Barack Obama for the Democrats to put into the general election.

Poor Brownstein! He doesn't get it. He doesn't understand what is happening in America today. But the New York Times today has a similar Op Ed Page article. What cynics these Op Ed page editors are!


Finally, we ought to ask the question: How could Chicago have such wild diversity of talent and lack of talent as Obama and Zell?

It's really no surprise. This was the same city which once had as citizens at the same time Robert Hutchins and Al Capone.



Anonymous another old fool said...

Looks like this long time L.A. Times subscriber is going to be forced to end his subscription. If there's no news in a NEWSpaper what the hell am I paying for?

There's going to be a news hole alright. No news. Just rumors and lies. Ain't that the way it in all totalitarian nations?

6/06/2008 9:50 PM  
Anonymous Student journalist said...

Forget news hole. There's a frikkin black hole in the front page of the times. When editors decided to run a feature on traffic congestion rather than a deadly shoot out in the Valley, that's when I was certain the Times is royally screwed.

6/11/2008 6:21 PM  

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