Tim Rutten is reporting the facts of the Grazergate thing differently than his own publisher reported them to the New York Times. Rutten makes it sound like Hiller saw the problem right away, whereas Hiller himself has said that he had to be convinced — and Andres Martinez has said that one of the people who helped do the convincing was Tim Rutten.
To summarize: Martinez resigned in pique after The Times publisher, David D. Hiller, told him he couldn’t go forward with a Current section that was being guest-edited by Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Hiller intervened when it was learned that Martinez has been dating a Hollywood publicist whose firm represents the producer. In fact, the agency obtained Grazer’s business after Martinez’s girlfriend’s boss facilitated the arrangement between the producer and The Times.
Hiller may have been slow to see a preposterous idea masquerading as an innovation — there’s a lot of that going around these days — but he had no trouble at all recognizing an ethical train wreck when he saw it coming.
Oh, really? That’s not the way Hiller himself portrayed it. Once again, from the New York Times:
The publisher, David Hiller, initially said he did not see a conflict, only the appearance of a conflict that could be handled with an editor’s note disclosing the relationship, said James O’Shea, the paper’s editor. But Mr. Hiller changed his mind yesterday after several staff members expressed their concern to Mr. O’Shea, and Mr. O’Shea spoke with Mr. Hiller. Yesterday, Mr. Hiller canceled the special edition.
So, actually, Hiller did have a problem recognizing the alleged “ethical train wreck” of the Grazer-edited section. He didn’t think it was a big deal — and had to have it explained to him that (supposedly) it was.
And Martinez has implied that one of the people who helped do the explaining was (drum roll, please) Tim Rutten. Martinez has said:
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.
We know Henry Weinstein was part of the cabal that approached O’Shea, because he has boasted about it in numerous articles. We know from his column that Rutten agrees with Weinstein that Grazergate was a big deal.
I think I believe Martinez when he strongly implies that Rutten was one of the people who went to O”Shea to lobby him to have Hiller kill the section.
Rutten characterizes Martinez’s statement (which he does not quote) as an accusation that he was one of the people who tried to break down the wall between opinion and news. Rutten quasi-denies that accusation, but I think he’s quasi-denying a strawman. What Martinez is claiming here is that Rutten joined Henry Weinstein — who has openly boasted of his involvement — in going to O’Shea to tell him to convince Hiller that the Grazer-edited Current section was all a big deal.
Rutten doesn’t deny that in his column.
Oddly, he doesn’t even mention that anyone went to O’Shea to get him to lobby Hiller. Instead, he affirmatively makes it sound like it was obvious to Hiller all along — something that Hiller himself has explicitly denied to the New York Times.
I said last night that I think there’s something else going on here. This column tends to confirm it. If I’m wrong, why is Tim Rutten falsely portraying how Hiller came to his decision, to make it seem like Hiller saw the problem as significant right away, when Hiller himself says he didn’t? Why is Rutten failing to mention that the editor of the paper has been accused of similar ethical conflicts in the past? Why is Rutten failing to address Martinez’s accusation that Rutten was involved in convincing O’Shea and Hiller that this was all a big deal?
I think my theory — that a cabal of left-wingers blew up this nonscandal as a way to embarrass Martinez — is looking better and better all the time.
By the way, Mr. Rutten? If you were involved in helping to convince O’Shea and Hiller that this was a real scandal, and if you failed to disclose that fact in your column — wouldn’t that create an appearance of impropriety?