Patterico's Pontifications

3/24/2007

Rutten vs. Hiller on the Facts Underlying the Grazergate Decision

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 8:01 am



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.

Hmmmmmmm.

Here’s 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.

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

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.

Hmmmmmmmmmm.

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?

17 Responses to “Rutten vs. Hiller on the Facts Underlying the Grazergate Decision”

  1. …when it was learned.

    Interesting choice of words, when “it was learned,” not “when Hiller learned” or “was told.” How was it learned and by whom, and why doesn’t he say that clearly? Hiller or Rutten or Martinez?

    I agree with you. The LAT is like every other bloated bureaucracy under attack: with fractured leadership, everyone is out to make the most of the chaos. To the barricades, Tim!

    Patricia (824fa1)

  2. HOW ABOUT A POST ON SAM ZELL’S POSSIBLE TAKEOVER OF THE TRIBUNE COMPANY? WSJ REPORTS THAT THE TRIBUNE IS LEANING TOWARD HIS OFFER AFTER HE ADDED MORE CASH.

    RON DROZ (0b36ff)

  3. “What did the (fill in the appropriate title here) know, and when did he know it.”

    Geez, didn’t these people ever leave high-school?

    Zell added more cash? The way things are going at Tribune Cos., I would have thought he would have reduced the amount of cash because he sure as h… isn’t buying a lot of “good-will”.

    Another Drew (a28ef4)

  4. This probably means Barbra Streisand will resubscribe to the LA Times. Wasn’t she mad at Martinez for bringing in columnists like Jonah Goldberg? However, in the long run, Babs may have to buy the Times herself if she wants this Titanic to stay afloat.

    DRJ (6984d0)

  5. “HOW ABOUT A POST…”

    If you feel so strongly about it, you could always start your own blog (at your own expense for bandwidth etc.) and post to your heart’s content.

    stoo (ef7431)

  6. Mickey Kaus opines on the LA Times’ new business model: Choosing a “rigid adherence to professional codes of ethics” over “something its readers might actually want to read.” Of course, Patterico readers saw it here first.

    DRJ (6984d0)

  7. Rutten probably wouldn’t recognize the truth if it bit him in the backside. I could chug down about 2/3 of Rutten’s column this morning–just like I could chug down about 2/3 of a barium milkshake in the old days before an X-ray.

    Two words come to mind where Rutten is concerned–I’ll settle for “pompous twit”.

    Mike Myers (4e1716)

  8. I’ll settle for “pompous twit.”

    I was thinking “overrated hack.”

    Perfect Sense (b6ec8c)

  9. I’m a regular Times reader and would miss its many qualities if it suddenly vanished . . . but if Rutten and Weinstein are to dictate policy, I say let the paper drown in a flood of canceled subscriptions, It’s already headed in that direction, of course, and these aren’t the guys to save it.

    James Fulton (abb1d1)

  10. Y’all do realize that March Madness is underway, right? 😉

    Grotius (be30ae)

  11. Newpaper reporters who have concerns about the ethics of a proposed course of action have every right to share those concerns with editors. You can refer to them as a “cabal” if you wish, but it seems to me they were acting very responsibly.

    Rutten, by the way, is writing commentary for a newspaper and can be as selective as he chooses. He is not giving courtroom testimony or a deposition. That he doesn’t discuss all the things you want discussed doesn’t give rise to questions of propriety.

    Tim McGarry (3fce07)

  12. Newpaper reporters who have concerns about the ethics of a proposed course of action have every right to share those concerns with editors. I didn’t say otherwise. I can refer to them as a “cabal” if I wish, and I did. The fact that they had a right to do something doesn’t mean they were acting responsibly.

    I know, by the way, that Rutten is writing commentary for a newspaper and can be as selective as he chooses. And I can criticize him for being so selective that his column is misleading.

    What fun it is to talk about what we all can do.

    That Rutten doesn’t discuss all the things I want discussed doesn’t give rise to questions of propriety. That he falsely portrays the facts does. And if he left out his role — a role that, if he played it, also undercuts his version — also raises propriety issues.

    By the way, let me know if you ever want to discuss the main issues raised in my post — such as Rutten’s misrepresentation of how easily Hiller came to his decision, or what a nonscandal this whole thing actually is. It’s great to be reminded how everyone has the right to say things. But I already knew that.

    Patterico (277262)

  13. A slight digression; is it me or did some of Tim Cavanaugh’s somewhat caustic comments shown here at Laobserved disappear from the LA Times Web opinion blog? “At moments of institutional embarrassment like this one…This week’s mess distracts from the bad news (though it’s hardly news to people who follow the issue) that the Los Angeles Times work environment is one where doing anything more than the bare minimum is passively, and often actively, discouraged.”

    Edward (98284f)

  14. Hiller in the NYT says his view of the matter changed over time. Maybe Rutten was simply unaware that Hiller started from a different place. I don’t know. In the end, Hiller came to view going forward with the guest editorship as a major risk to the newspaper’s reputation and took action in a big way.

    Whether this came to him all at once or evolved would seem to be of limited importance.

    Your basis for accusing Rutten of an impropriety continues to escape me.

    I see Martinez’ conflict of interest as serious. He made the decision to provide his girlfriend’s client with something of enormous value. Was he motivated by professional or personl considerations? I don’t know. I can’t see into his heart. The fact of conflict is enough to warrant Hiller’s decision, I believe.

    Tim McGarry (3fce07)

  15. Edward: it’s not you.

    Patterico (04465c)

  16. Maybe Rutten was simply unaware that Hiller started from a different place

    Tim:

    Do you really think Tim Rutten wrote a column about this issue without reading an article in the New York Times about it??

    Really??

    Whether this came to him all at once or evolved would seem to be of limited importance.

    It seemed important to Rutten to portray the conflict as so obvious that Hiller saw it right away. But Hiller didn’t — and Rutten should have (and probably did) know that. In other words, Rutten portrayed this falsely.

    Your basis for accusing Rutten of an impropriety continues to escape me.

    I hope that makes it clearer for you.

    Patterico (04465c)

  17. I simply don’t know whether Rutten read Hiller’s remarks in the NYT.

    Tim McGarry (3fce07)


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