Patrick, I read you as agreeing with Kevin [Roderick] that, ethically, Rumsfeld would be a poor choice. Let us know if that’s a misread.
It is a misread. I think Rumsfeld would have been a poor choice, but not “ethically.”
I come from the school of thought that says full disclosure washes away almost any accusation of “ethical” impropriety. (I said “almost.” Save your comments and e-mails with ridiculous hypotheticals illustrating the extreme exception to the rule. Please.) But — regardless of full disclosure — if what you’re disclosing is just plain goofy, the disclosure may not save you from being mocked bitterly.
I assume that using Rumsfeld would have (appropriately) resulted in an Editor’s Note, just as using Grazer would have (appropriately) resulted in its own Editor’s Note. Let’s enter the Alternate Universe, in which this experiment is allowed to flower, unimpeded by the objections of sanctimonious lefty types from the newsroom. How would those Editor’s Notes have read?
This week’s Current section will be edited by Brian Grazer, a Hollywood producer. Full disclosure: editorial page editor Andres Martinez is currently dating public relations executive Kelly Mullens, who is an executive with the firm 42West. That firm represents Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment. When Martinez first chose Grazer for a guest editor spot, he consulted with 42West head Allan Mayer. At that time, 42West did not represent Grazer or his company. However, the 42West firm has since helped to distribute a news release regarding Grazer’s guest editorial spot, and in the interest of full disclosure, The Times has seen fit to notify readers of the relationship. Otherwise, Nikki Finke will end up doing a blog post with pictures of Martinez, Mullens, and Grazer, with crudely Photoshopped arrows connecting the pictures. And that would just embarrass the hell out of us. Hence this disclosure.
This week’s Current section will be edited by Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense. Full disclosure: Rumsfeld is also the former squash partner of this newspaper’s publisher David Hiller. Hiller wrote a piece praising Rumsfeld here. But — just like last week, when the first guest editor spot went to a producer whose firm is represented by the P.R. firm of the editor’s girlfriend — personal relationships had nothing to do with the awarding of the guest editor spot.
This week’s Current section will be edited by Manny Monterroso, the maître d’ at The Ivy. Full disclosure: when Andres Martinez and David Hiller went out for dinner last week to discuss the exciting new direction of Current, Manny got Andres and Mr. Hiller a really great table right next to Sandra Bullock, who acknowledged that the things the L.A. Times is doing with the Current section are, and we quote, “really great.” But we assure readers that the selection of Manny had little or nothing to do with that incident, and everything to do with Manny’s vision of a new and revitalized L.A. Just like Week 1, when the spot went to a producer whose company is represented by the editor’s girlfriend’s P.R. firm. And Week 2, when the spot went to the publisher’s former squash partner. This is all merit-based, people! Why can’t you see that?
Pretty soon, the jokes would start writing themselves. And most (if not all) of them would be way funnier than mine. (Yes, I’m walking right into your comment below.)
So: “ethical issue.” Nah.
But funny? In the right hands, you betcha.
P.S. If I can be serious for a second, the main reason the Staples Center deal was an issue was because of lack of disclosure. Is this too subtle a point for the self-righteous newsroom puffballs who have been flogging this issue?