Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008: Signs of the (L.A.) Times

Excerts from an article by Kevin Roderick
LA Observed

Everyone in power at the Los Angeles Times vowed that 2008 would be the year the paper stopped making news for the wrong reasons — remember how unbelievable 2007 seemed? — and rebuilt its reputation as a top-tier U.S. newspaper.

Then Sam Zell came along, followed by yet another change in publisher and editor, the greatest shedding of talent in the paper's history, and more national attention for reasons other than good journalism: one of the most embarrassing retractions ever, the killing of Book Review, Opinion, Real Estate and the Los Angeles Times Poll, waves of emotional farewells, worst in the nation circulation losses, questionable online news decisions, a courtroom accusation that the Times collaborated with Anthony Pellicano, a big Guantanamo correction, and trading away of the Washington Bureau that was a foundation of the Times' national reputation. Plus more.

I think quotes and links tell the story of 2008 best.

Sam the sham and the yes men

"Everyone likes pussy. It’s un-American not to like pussy."
— Sam Zell, visiting the Times Orange County plant.

"Fuck you."
— Zell to an employee who asked about news standards.

"My goal was to shock you, to shake you out of complacency."
— Zell to employees.

"In the newspaper, it just says Times Staff Reporter. I really never thought about it, that there was really a person over there going through hell to get this."
— Tribune innovation guru Lee Abrams, on not knowing the Baghdad dateline means reporters are there. Times bylines now say Reporting from Baghdad.

"It's not good judgment to use profane or hostile language...looking at pornography on the job, unless in pursuit of a story, also is not good judgment....In short, nothing changes; the fundamental rules of decorum and decency apply."
— LAT memo to staff, backtracking on Zell's comments.

"Sam Zell likes to say his role is to throw bombs and shake people up.
He's a man of his word."
— Washington bureau chief Doyle McManus, on Zell's 'psychic bloodbath'
visit to the bureau.

"Sam Zell’s illegal and irresponsible actions and public statements have damaged the reputation and business of the company he purports to want to preserve."
— News release by former LAT stars who sued Tribune.

"Somehow it all mixes up and...gets clarified in my head."
— Zell on reading six magazines, three newspapers and his Bloomberg terminal.

"I’ve said loud and clear that I am returning control of our businesses to the people who run them. That means David Hiller has my full support."
— Zell in January, backing the LAT publisher.

"I want to let you know that David Hiller has decided to step down as publisher of The Los Angeles Times, effective immediately."
— Tribune COO Randy Michaels in July.

"When historians get around to 2008, it’s likely they will say it was the year the Los Angeles Times died."
— Kit Rachlis, editor of Los Angeles Magazine.

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