I have occasionally received some entertaining e-mails from novelist and former L.A. Times staffer Evan Maxwell. Generally, these e-mails were not for publication or attribution — though he did once send me a very amusing comment that was.
With the recent flap over the ouster of Robert Scheer, Evan sent me an e-mail that he is permitting me to publish in its entirety. Here it is, with the embedded links added by me:
I’ve been lurking but not participating much. However, I have kept track of your continuing guerrilla war. I always thought you were pretty tough on my alma mater, the Ol’ Grey Lady of Spring Street, but compared to the guys on the left, you are a real pussycat. Just get a load of what Robert Scheer and Steve Wasserman (who was originally hired by the Times as Scheer’s researcher) are now saying about their former employer. You are positively genial by comparison.
I’m amused at the sudden and vicious attacks because those two used to be such good company men, at least as long as they had use of the bully pulpit the Times offers. Now that they have both moved on, or been moved on, they have no compunction about laying into the Times, the Trib and anybody else who they perceive as retrograde and reactionary.
Wasserman’s piece on Scheer’s website today was a perfect example of the kind of high-toned leftist excoriation that has been loosed on the Times since Scheer was ousted. And it is a perfect example of the kind of political back-scratching that the leftists on the paper have engaged in for years. The two of them, Scheer and Wasserman, were instrumental in politicizing the newsroom, marginalizing the reactionary forces (meaning anyone to the right of, say, Tom Hayden) on the staff, and enforcing a kind of political solidarity that has so alienated a great many readers over the last two decades. And when they finally get pushed out, they turn like high-strung lap dogs and start biting every hand in sight.
They and their allies would have you believe there is this groundswell of outrage but I sincerely question that. If you think this isn’t a well-orchestrated campaign, just look at Kevin Roderick’s piece on so-called reader feedback about Scheer’s ouster. Six thousand angry calls and/or emails sounds like the result of a loud call-to-arms, rather than a spontaneous uprising of the proletariat.
I don’t imagine there will be street demonstrations (even mildly silly ones like the 55 picketers who turned out while Scheer was off on his luxury cruise) on behalf of the 85 hard-working news stiffs who are now taking the buy-out voluntarily or involuntarily. Those long-time staffers, the backbone of the news operation, don’t have well-organized and highly-vocal cadres behind them. They were too busy gathering news to recognize that the newsroom around them had become as politicized as any in the country, much to the detriment of the paper.
But the loss of that astonishing pool of talent will hurt the Los Angeles Times far more than the firings that are getting so much attention. If I were still in the LA Basin, I’d mount a demonstration of my own on their behalf. They are the ones who deserve recognition and the paper will miss them more than it can ever guess.
PS: I used to keep a low profile and you honored my wishes. However, if you want to use my name and any part of this, use away. The last couple of weeks brought back some unpleasant memories of why I left the paper in 1984.
Thanks for writing, Evan. Stay in touch.
UPDATE: Evan responds to commenters in an e-mail published here.