On March 17, I noticed that Bud Cummins, one of the fired U.S. Attorneys, had directly contradicted the major premise of an L.A. Times article published about him. It’s now been over a week, and the paper has done nothing to correct the record. It appears clear to me that they aren’t going to tell their readers that the subject of an article has publicly claimed that the central premise of the article was wrong.
If you’re looking for an L.A. Times scandal, you’ve found it. This nonsense about Andres Martinez isn’t a scandal. Hiding the truth from your readers is.
On March 16, the L.A. Times published a story titled Cummins fears corruption investigation led to his firing. The article said that Cummins had looked into allegations relating to potential corruption by Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt. It quoted Cummins as speculating that this investigation may have had something to do with his being fired: “Now I keep asking myself: ‘What about the Blunt deal?'”
In an e-mail to TPM Muckraker, Cummins said that The Times got it wrong (all emphasis mine):
Unfortunately, that isn’t what I said, or at least what I intended to say, and it is not the case.
The context of my conversation with LA Times reporter Richard Serrano was clearly that I do not know of ANY connection between the Missouri investigation (which actually had nothing to do with Governor Blunt) and my termination.
I posted about this on March 17, quoting Cummins’s e-mail. I wrote the Readers’ Representative about this on March 18. On March 19, the Readers’ Representative acknowledged receiving the e-mail, and said that she would review the issue with editors and let me know what the thinking is.
It’s now March 25 — eight days from when I first posted about this, and a full week from when I first wrote the paper about it. No correction has issued. The paper has made no reference to Cummins’s denial of the central premise of the story. As far as the readers of the Los Angeles Times know, Bud Cummins thinks his firing may be related to a political investigation. Times readers have no idea that Cummins has explicitly said that he knows of no such connection.
Even if the paper stands by its quotation of Cummins, it owes readers the information that Cummins 1) denies that he said what the Times article attributed to him; and 2) says that, even if that’s somehow what he said, he doesn’t believe that it’s true.
The paper’s failure to communicate this information to readers is scandalous and inexcusable.
Which leads me to John Podhoretz. He has a wonderful post about the recent Andres Martinez non-scandal, in which Martinez, the former L.A. Times editorial page editor, gave a one-time guest editor spot to a client of his girlfriend’s P.R. firm. Like me, Podhoretz thinks this is a non-scandal, and contrasts it with the real scandal of putting out a horrible newspaper. Here’s Podhoretz:
When serious people criticize the media, they talk about serious things: Is the news being skewed? Is the public getting an incomplete picture due to biased coverage? Does the follow-the-leader approach of the mainstream media turn minor stories into major scandals? And so on.
This is exactly the point I have been making for days about the Martinez non-scandal. For example, in this post, I noted that, unlike the Martinez non-scandal, the paper’s handling of the U.S. Attorney scandal creates a real appearance of impropriety — because it shows that the paper doesn’t care about portraying the facts in a fair light. Podhoretz puts it well:
The problem with the L.A. Times is that it is a dull, characterless, mindlessly liberal piece of junk whose managers don’t know the difference between a real scandal — the scandal that is putting out a newspaper as bad as the Times in the second largest city in the country — and a fake one.
Which is par for the course when the newspaper industry decides to police itself.
Sing it, brother! And Mark Steyn piles on:
The “appearance of a conflict of interest” in the Times scandal is supposedly this: Brian Grazer, Mister Bigshot Hollywood Producer, was invited to guest-edit a section, but it turns out he uses a PR firm which employs a gal who dates an editor at the Times. How this can raise any “integrity” issues is beyond me. If the obscure Times functionary is trying to figure out a way to get to Grazer, using a personal contact who has an in is exactly what journalists are meant to do. Or is the “conflict of interest” supposed to be the other way round? That Brian Grazer, one of the most powerful men in the most powerful industry in town, had been panting all his life for the opportunity to guest-edit four pages of sludge in the local fishwrap but had no way of bringing himself to the attention of a minor Times functionary except through his PR lady’s pillow talk? If the paper truly believes that, it certainly explains a lot.
. . . .
Read this story about the LA “scandal”, as reported by no less than three New York Times reporters in their own inert house style. Doesn’t everyone quoted on every side of the story sound like a sanctimonious pill you’d hate to get stuck in an elevator with?
So what’s going on here, if so many people agree with me that this alleged “scandal” really isn’t one? I believe that a cabal of left-wingers blew up this nonscandal as a way to embarrass Martinez. I articulated my theory here, and provided further support for it here.
The real scandal at the L.A. Times has nothing to do with Andres Martinez — and everything to do with the paper hiding the truth from its readers.