The new Sunday Opinion section, titled “Current,” debuted in the L.A. Times yesterday. Kevin Drum is not impressed, describing the new design as “thick black lines and, um . . . more thick black lines.”
The new features are comprehensively set forth in a press release quoted by Kevin Roderick, here. What intrigues me is the new name for the section: “Current,” instead of “Opinion.” Why the change? Editor Bob Sipchen had a number of explanations yesterday, but I think the most telling was this one:
We want Times staff writers to offer analysis in these pages. That couldn’t happen while the section was called Opinion. Good mainstream newspaper journalists work hard to keep their biases out of their reportage. This paper’s editors want there to be no confusion about The Times’ commitment to the ideal of objective reporting.
Now, while it remains inappropriate for Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin to offer her personal views about the U.S. decision to invade Iraq — don’t worry, there are plenty of nonstaffers all too eager to offer theirs’ — she could authoritatively analyze the evolution of a constitution or give an insider’s account what it’s like to cover the war while concealed in traditional Islamic clothing.
I find this explanation very amusing. First, there’s something quaint and (to be honest) vaguely silly about the idea that it’s okay for reporters to contribute to what is still clearly an opinion section — as long as it’s not called “Opinion.”
Even funnier to me is the notion that L.A. Times reporters keep their personal views out of their articles. Take Sipchen’s example: Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin.
I think we already know how Ms. Rubin feels about the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. She is the reporter who, along with a co-author, mocked Paul Bremer as someone who appeared “afraid” because he allegedly scurried out of Baghdad without making a final speech to the people of Iraq. Except, he had made a final speech. (See this post for details.)
In the same story, Rubin and her co-author claimed that Ayad Allawi was “little-known to most Iraqis” and that “[m]any Iraqis” questioned the government’s legitimacy — even as a Washington Post poll showed that a “large majority of Iraqis” said they had confidence in Allawi’s government — and “73 percent of Iraqis polled approved of Allawi to lead the new government.”
Yes, I suppose it could be true that Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin supported the U.S. decision to invade Iraq. It could also be true that Osama bin Laden thinks the U.S. is the greatest country on God’s green earth. It could be true that Elvis and John Lennon are getting together tonight for an acoustic set at Largo (with special guest Jon Brion).
It could be . . . but I doubt it.
Bob, I wouldn’t be too concerned about Ms. Rubin giving us her opinion in a section titled “Opinion.” I’d worry a lot more about her and your other reporters giving their opinions on the news pages.