Patterico's Pontifications

11/30/2005

An E-Mail from Evan Maxwell About the L.A. Times

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:34 am

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 Generally, these e-mails were not for publication or attribution — though he did once send me a very amusing comment that was.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:

Patterico,

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.

Evan Maxwell
Sedona, AZ

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.

12 Responses to “An E-Mail from Evan Maxwell About the L.A. Times”

  1. The Wasserman piece consists of some horrendously overwrought prose. Grammatically correct, yet unreadable.

    biwah (f5ca22)

  2. I had a testy email exchange with Wasserman a few years ago when he was Book Review Editor. I had read the line-up of the LA Times Festival of Books one year, and it was the usual hodgepodge of lefties. I wrote Wasserman to ask why anyone even slightly right-of-center should bother to attend. I pointed out that among the panelists and speakers, there were 20-some that were affiliated with The Nation, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and other lefty rags, and only a handful that were linked with National Review, the Weekely Standard, or any other media outlet that could be characterized as conservative. Wasserman wrote back with a lame defense which was essentially (to paraphrase) “Arianna Huffington used to be conservative and Christopher Hitchens supports the Iraq War, so we will have a variety of opinions among the panelists.” I agreed that there would be a variety of opinions: From the far left all the way to the center left. I also took a swipe at how the viewpoints would mesh very nicely with the LA Times Book Reviews leanings, and Wasserman wrote back to lamely tell me that the book review does not have political leanings. The reviewers themselves have personal leanings, he told me, but the Book Review section itself was neutral. Our email exchange ended with me asking who the hell was commissioning those lefties to write the reviews, to which he never responded.

    I think the post-Wasserman Book Review is much better. We no longer have to deal with Tom Hayden reviewing Mike Davis or Patt Morrison reviewing Jared Diamond. I used to imagine that they all met at Midnight Special Bookstore to map out the review plans.

    JVW (54c318)

  3. With all this experienced newspaper talent roaming free around town (amid plunging sales of the LAT), I would think the time is ripe for another broadsheet to drop in. Of course, that would need a huge start-up investment. Are there any whispers around town that this might be happening?

    Bill Schumm (33ab73)

  4. Last I heard was that Riordan wanted to start up a competing paper, but then withdrew the plan. I am constantly thinking of ways to bring about a new source of journalism to the city, but like you say, it’s gotta have deep pockets to get going. The talent’s not a problem. It’s the vision and the bucks.

    Brian (b0d240)

  5. I recall hearing that the main problems with Riordan’s newspaper idea is that it would have been center to right-of-center editorially, and therefore would be best suited to the Valley, the South Bay, the Inland Empire, and Orange County. Distribution of a start-up paper in those areas turned out to be prohibitively expensive, so the idea was scrapped.

    JVW (54c318)

  6. That’s my problem, I suppose. I’m a Westside conservative. I’m outside of my tribe.

    Seriously, if the content is superb, even if it is right-of-center, it’ll find an audience across the region, including the Westside. But it’s not my money.

    Isn’t it best anyway to jettison the b.s. and the pretense of objectivity and write the stories, but supply bios of the reporters so that their background and politics can be used as a refeence by the readers when making theri own decisions about the “objectivity” of a given story? That way, right or left is at least being worn on the sleeve and the writers can focus on writing good stuff, like it or not.

    Brian (b0d240)

  7. Mr. Schumm wrote:

    With all this experienced newspaper talent roaming free around town (amid plunging sales of the LAT), I would think the time is ripe for another broadsheet to drop in. Of course, that would need a huge start-up investment. Are there any whispers around town that this might be happening?

    I don’t know if there are any such whispers (given that I’m a couple of thousand miles away), but newspapers are dying, period. They are eighteenth century technology, modernized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but simply unable to compete as we enter the twenty-first.

    It’s a lot easier, a lot cheaper, a lot cleaner, and a lot more up to date to get news from the internet.

    Dana R. Pico (a9eb8b)

  8. Mr. Maxwell left the Times in 1984 (I assume to Sedona, a beautiful place but out of the mainstream flow) and he claims to know what is going on at the Times?

    Nice of him to stand up and retort Mr. Wasserman’s observations, but I believe he (Maxwell) is in a very small, minority group with similar beliefs. Bottom line, in my opinion: the consistent changes and mutations the Times has undergone have not improved the newspaper.

    Harry Jigamian (04ebe7)

  9. Dana,

    I know it’s old technology, but so is the wheel. I wish I could get a lot of the best stuff I read in blogs, news sites, etc. on a similar piece of paper for reading instead of the PC screen. At work, I often will print out long documents, like contracts, for reading and noting comments in the margins, before responding to them electronically.

    The newspaper may be old technology, but are you confusing the media (paper) with the content? There’s something about holding a book or a newspaper in my hands that is much more natural.

    Am I alone in this?

    Brian (b0d240)

  10. “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 can only speak for myself, but nobody told me to call and cancel. I did it on my own, before Scheer wrote a single word about it and my decision had less to do with Scheer’s politics than it did with how his writing ability compares with the keyboard smacking of Jonah Goldberg.

    The Times has been getting worse for years and is completely out of touch with its own community. While trading an articulate veteran for a hack might have been enough for me to cancel on its own, it was really the last of many straws.

    You may be right about the other 5,999 angry callers, Mr. Maxwell, but I won’t jump to conclusions about you, if you stop assuming things about me.

    CJ (0c5504)

  11. “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.”

    How the “Ol’ Grey Lady of Spring Street” became a spinster. Now THAT would be a good book!

    Someone should chronicle the careers of these two men vis a vis their ideology, the ebb and flow of the political climate, and the marginalization of the LAT’s Opinion page versus the erosion of revenues and the decline in readership.

    Somewhere, someone was WAAAY out of step with the masses and should be brought to account for it.

    While I suspect it was due to the failure of the Socialist propaganda model’s premise that independent-minded Americans can be led by the nose; and that they instead rejected the concept the masses NEED to be TOLD what their OPINION is, it would be presumptuous for me to say so. Now, if I had 20 years of emails and a horde of ex-ballot counters to provide the manual labor, I’m sure it could be demonstrated QED.

    Jim D. (de1259)

  12. […] Evan Maxwell responds to some of the critics of his recent e-mail, which I published in this post. As before, I have embedded links where relevant: […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Evan Maxwell Responds (421107)


Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.2708 secs.