Regarding his accusations that the newsroom has tried to influence the opinion section at the L.A. Times, Andres Martinez has written Kevin Roderick — and has named names:
[W]ith all the havoc at the paper, there is no strong newsroom leadership to keep order. So Sue Horton, a senior news editor, takes it upon herself to call me up to suggest greater coordination between the news report and the opinion pages, as in the old days, and Julie Marquis feels empowered to email publisher David Hiller to lobby for his editorial page to pay closer attention to the newsroom’s worthy investigative series, some of which, we felt on the editorial board, already came with their own built-in editorials, so what’s the point? Nobody would have dared do such a thing under John Carroll.
Martinez makes it clear that some of the attempted interference (but not all) was ideologically based:
The point is, a proper structure is needed, but you obviously need credible leadership on both sides of the wall separating news from editorial.
Some of the resentment of the opinion page’s newfound independence is ideological, some of it merely a matter of bureaucratic culture, some of it a personnel matter (there are some embittered former editorial board members that Kinsley and Carroll sent off to newsroom), but the end result is that people engage in behavior that would be deemed wildly inappropriate at newspapers like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times (I know, I have worked at both), where the proper separation of news from opinion is longstanding. Dean and I often talked about how we had to keep at it every day in terms of changing the culture.
In that regard, the arrival of editor Jim O’Shea from Chicago was a real setback. Early on he told Nikki Finke in an interview that he and Hiller had casually talked about whether to give him the editorial pages (as is the practice at the Tribune in Chicago) but Jim said no thanks, I have enough on my plate as it is. So much for our push to convince readers that this separation was a matter of principle rather than the editor’s whim.
(All emphasis in this post is mine.)
Martinez describes the newsroom’s attempt to influence the opinion section as a much greater scandal than any appearance problems caused by his relationship with a flack for a producer getting a one-time guest editor spot. In making this point, he names more names — including one I had mentioned to you earlier this morning: Henry Weinstein.
One real ethics issue - the determined effort by some in the newsroom to undermine the autonomy of editorial page - helps explain the gross exaggeration of the other - an invitation from time to time by said autonomous opinion pages to have notable personalities like Brian Grazer and Donald Rumsfeld edit 5 articles, regardless of who their damned publicists are. I think the desire to blend opinion with news is the far bigger breach, but I’m guessing the Henry Weinsteins and Tim Ruttens of the world will continue to conjure up the magical words “Staples Center” to wail against any innovation at the paper, and confusing the hundreds of thousands of readers of the LAT who don’t read LA Observed – sorry, Kevin - into believing that Grazergate somehow implied an improper blending of the newspaper’s business side and editorial judgment, which it patently did not.
. . . .
O’Shea and Hiller are like military governors sent off to the far reaches of the empire to put down the latest uprising by the imperial subjects, and they have such a tenuous hold on the place, living in fear that they will get macheted down themselves, they caved to a disgruntled newsroom that is annoyed at Chicago, annoyed at them and annoyed at the autonomy of the opinion pages.
In mentioning “the desire to blend opinion with news,” Martinez obviously means the newsroom’s efforts to interfere with the opinion side of the paper, which he describes as a “far bigger breach” than his own. But there is a bigger problem there, which I rail about on this site regularly: the newsroom’s efforts to inject opinion into the news side of the paper. That is the biggest breach of all — and the one that the editor and publisher should be most concerned with ending.