Patterico's Pontifications

3/23/2007

Andres Martinez Names Names

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:30 am



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.

22 Responses to “Andres Martinez Names Names”

  1. […] Update: Martinez names names. Sweet. He dropped this in the New York Times, too: “There’s a general post-Jayson Blair, post-Staples Center obsession with covering yourself to a fault. I would argue this is taking it too far. The wheels of this bus have come off. There’s not strong leadership in the newsroom, and there’s a perception that [LAT publisher David] Hiller is trying to suck up to Hollywood and advertisers.” digg_url = ‘http://hotair.com/archives/2007/03/23/shocka-la-times-opinion-editor-complains-of-newsrooms-agenda/’;digg_topic = ‘political_opinion’; […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » Shocka: LA Times opinion editor complains of newsroom’s “agenda” (d4224a)

  2. NEWSFLASH

    On the 14th of this month, the Emperor Misha set loose his army of puppies to invade Misha Watch and fight off the threat it posed.

    In the fierce battle that followed, the elite 3-man SAS squad from Misha Watch – The Dog Catcher, LC Hastings and Dwight, inflicted heavy casualties on their opposite numbers. The following puppies are thought to have perished in action:

    juandos
    LC Gunsniper
    Ten-Ten
    Merc
    Gene
    Brian the sailor
    rudytbone
    LC 0311 crunchie
    RightWingRocker
    LC JackBoot-Ambassador
    caveman82952
    Holden Caulfield
    sig94
    LC Beeblebrox
    RobertHuntingdon
    UnfrozenCavegirlBlogger
    Dawnsblood
    Sir Christopher
    tw111
    Beaker
    LC HOGHEAD
    LC Wes, Imperial Mohel
    jaybear
    friendofbob
    Darth Bacon
    baboo
    LC Wil
    Gutshot74
    Steve
    Pogue Mahogue
    Cheapshot911
    Chuck Heston
    fanbladesaresharp
    Cannon Fodder
    MadMOnk
    Anonymouse
    Q_Mech
    Mrs. M
    BigDogg
    LC Moriarty
    Ozzman002
    packmember

    LC Staci, Lady Heather, Blackiswhite, Imperial Agent Provocateur and Radical Redneck are the only puppies reported to be putting up some resistance to the severe onslaught from the MW SAS squad.

    Misha Watch is reporting that there have been no casualties on their side.

    Newsflash (3e07fa)

  3. Wow, I guess that helps explain why celebrity billionaires are not, in fact, lining up to bail out this hopeless newspaper.

    The smart Timespeople (if there are any left) ought to be sending out resumes right about now.

    JVW (2323e8)

  4. You can feel the frustration in Martinez’ words. It is sweet, the LAT tactic of writing about the smoke as if it were fire, chickens coming home to roost.

    TimesHater (f458ed)

  5. Weirdo alert. I think Newsflash (#2) is weirdo David Moon who has appeared here before. Hmm, can you generate a DoS like situation on a blog by posting a comment that contains a lot of common search terms from Google?

    nk (2f88ef)

  6. It does sound as though the Times staff–both on the editorial side, and especially on the news side (is it possible to distinguish between the two groups without access to a current table of organization?)suffer from an utter lack of adult supervision.

    Mike Myers (4e1716)

  7. Most damning statement:
    “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”

    If your editorial page editor says your news is biased, maybe, just maybe it is.

    RCJP (2fc153)

  8. Life and editorial pages go on, and the LAT is frantically searching for a replacement that will carry on Martinez’ proud tradition. Personally presumed front-runner: JuanHernandez.

    TLB (cc42f6)

  9. News side imposing opinions on the opinion side???

    Doesn’t that imply that the news side has been imposing opinions on its own side for so long that its confidence is sufficient to strike out to conquer new fields for its own opinions?

    Talk about newsies ‘framing the discussion’ and ‘setting the agenda’ – this is the radicals dream of ‘making a difference’ set in spades. Subscribers to the LAT had better invest in a few bazillion grains of salt to take with their daily paper…

    Insufficiently Sensitive (01397c)

  10. 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.

    The Weinstein example, however, points to a different problem, i.e., the injection of bias into the ostensibly straight news coverage by the reporters themselves, and the failure of the editorial staff to react to it. I suspect, however, that the problems are not unrelated — if the editors exercise no control over that sort of bias, it is not surprising that said reporters would eventually want to assume the explicit punditry function as well.

    Karl (d24934)

  11. WOW! The first of many defections, I would bet, from party headquarters. This is tantamount to the Iranian intelligence official defecting to the US!

    Patricia (5b7822)

  12. After they lose a few more thousand subscribers, LAT “managers” will give themselves bonuses for reducing their carbon footprint.

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  13. Patrick, in my experience, some degree of cooperation between news and the editorial page is the norm at most American newspapers (after all, editorials are usually commentary on events in the news and are informed by the paper’s reporting). Similarly, investigative series are frequently accompanied or followed by related editorials. You may want to exercise some caution in following Andres here.

    Tim McGarry (798820)

  14. Tim,
    The only connection between the news and editorial page is that usually the reporting is supposed to be a departure point for the those directing the opinion page.
    Reporters or news editors advocating, which I believe Andres was implying, for a particular viewpoint is verboten. I’m not saying reporters and editors don’t talk to op-editors, especially at smaller newspapers, but we all know the line and cross it at our peril.

    Edward (56d3fd)

  15. Edward,

    I like your website and your sense of humor. Are you the same Edward who commented here on the AP story regarding Jamil Hussein? If so, I thought you provided some helpful comments and insight.

    DRJ (6984d0)

  16. Yes, thanks. Don’t mean to return the compliment, but if you’re the one going through those border patrol court documents, God Bless you. I read some of the news stories about it, and I don’t know who to believe. Sometimes I’ll read about the same incident and get completely different versions from different sources.

    Edward (56d3fd)

  17. I guess this means that the special Patterico-edited Currents section will be delayed.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  18. I have a few suggestions to anyone trying to cut $7.5 million from the newsroom budget: start with the folks that complained about Currents.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  19. Edward, the Martinez quote Patrick has chosen says news staffers lobbied to have certain subjects covered. There doesn’t seem to be anything improper in that.

    Tim McGarry (dd2ab3)

  20. Tim,
    There is a clear line between advocacy and news. Opinion pages advocate a position. If reporters and news editors are lobbying to have certain subjects covered, how far will they go in advocating their opinion on their own news reporting? It’s true, maybe the pure ones will say,”I want you to editorialize on this important topic; I just don’t want to know what side you’re going to be on.” But the rest of us poor souls should stay in the trenches and wait to read it in the paper tomorrow.

    Edward (56d3fd)

  21. I cancelled LAT a long time ago because without the heading you can’t tell where the Opinion page starts or ends. Any billionaire who buys this paper and tries to turn it around is going to need a whole pad of pink slips to have any chance of success – the newsroom egregiously overestimates the quality of its output.

    Eric (605286)


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