Editor & Publisher reports that the L.A. Times is still not sure what to do with Chuck Philips:
Editor Russ Stanton, who is in town for the Capital Conference combined media convention, told E&P that Philips “remains active and on the payroll,” but added “what he is going to be doing in the future is still in the process of being defined.”
The editor and publisher both seem to think this is an isolated incident, and that they’ve done everything they can do:
Looking ahead, Stanton said the controversy will not be a detriment to his efforts to make the paper successful: “I think it propels us forward, I don’t know how else to do it. I think we dealt with it as fairly as a newspaper can.”
Publisher David Hiller, who appointed Stanton to replace O’Shea, also offered no excuses, saying: “Things like that happen. What is important to do is to step up and acknowledge that we made a mistake. We draw a lot of attention. It is like the old saying that a million planes land safely every day, if one has a problem, it gets attention.”
The plane crash analogy is apt in one way and inapt in another.
Usually after a plane crash, authorities try to find out what went wrong, and disclose it to the public, as a way of assuring that the same thing won’t happen again. Here, we know that the problem goes beyond forged documents, since the paper has declared its lack of faith in what were supposedly numerous sources. But what did happen? And how do we know it won’t happen again? The paper won’t say.
But the analogy is inapt because it assumes that all Philips’s past stories were sound, like planes that have already landed. They don’t know that. Stories can crash and burn years after the fact — and if they were written using similar methods as this one, it’s not even a particularly unlikely prospect.
Less self-satisfaction and more self-examination, please.