Tuesday, September 13, 2005

LA Observed Reports Kinsley Out At LA Times! And...Kinsley Writes Superb Column In LA Times!


First, Kevin Roderick's post about the soon be announced replacement of Kinsley as head of the Editorial and Opinion pages of the LA Times:

Expect an announcement today from Times publisher Jeff Johnson that Michael Kinsley has been formally replaced as Editorial and Opinion Editor. The editorial page, Op-Ed and Current will report to Andrés Martinez, who currently oversees just editorials. Kinsley signaled in July (via leak to the New York Times) that a change was coming.

Now these pages will be supervised by someone who actually LIVES in Los Angeles! My God - what will those geniuses at the Times think of next!

Of course, it is still someone who is a very recent resident of our fair city and someone with no personal connections to LA and someone with zero memories or first hand knowledge of LA that are more than... one year old.

So, of course, he fits right in at the not so presumptive 'LA' Times!

Still, this does not answer the question of why the quality of the editorial page has NOT improved, even after Kinsley has been - presumably - not running it. There is also the continuing (and increasingly outmoded) multi-voiced, no one to take the credit or blame - collective editorial voice - which means that there is no one to take responsiblity for disasters like the Sept. 3rd earthquake editorial...


... an editorial that was - essentially - fully, totally and completely repudiated (and corrected), point by point - during the following week in various LA Times news stories. Of course, though, no corrections were ever made to the editorial itself.

It also means there is no one to take credit for the often seriously superb editorials that do happen to slip in from time to time, such as the recent editorial on the election in Japan...


... and the recent one on the upcoming German election...


Now both of these editorials are superbly written, concise, and informative. They also each clearly identify why Americans should be interested in the outcomes of these elections and they are easily understood by people with no previous knowledge of the subject matters.

The perfect model of a modern major editorial!

Alas, the LA Times' ever increasing problem is that the quality - and accuracy - of the Editorial Page is invariably in complete, direct and inverse proportion to the distance of subject matter from the City of Los Angeles.

So it generally takes about a distance of, say, at least... 3,000 miles... for the LA Times to know what the hell it is talking about.

OK - now on to Mr. Kinsley himself.

And let us speak kindly of the dead.

The good news about him was that he was not afraid to experiment and take chances. Granted, now these... experiments.... did not always work out - wicki, wacky wikitorials, anyone? - but at least he tried. He also often took postions in his signed columns that were unexpected and even made one actually... think... about how one had previously viewed a subject.

An excellent example is his recent reflections on Hurricane Katrina; below are the closing three paragraphs of the column:


Obviously — obviously in hindsight, that is — we should have spent the money to strengthen the New Orleans levees. President Clinton should have done it. Presidents Bush the Elder and Reagan should have done it. As Tim Noah notes in Slate, warnings about the perilous New Orleans levees go back at least to Fanny Trollope in 1832. In fact, the one president who is pretty much in the clear on this is our current Bush — not because he did anything about the levees but because even if he had started something, it probably wouldn't have been finished yet.

Everybody is having a fine fit about our politicians, governments at every level and "institutions" (current vogue word) for failing us in this crisis and others. The TV news networks, which only a few months ago were piously suppressing emotional fireworks by their pundits, are now piously encouraging their news anchors to break out of the emotional straitjackets and express outrage. A Los Angeles Times colleague of mine, appearing on CNN last week to talk about Katrina, was told by a producer to "get angry." But just Google a phrase like "commission warns," or "urgent steps" or "our children's future" — or simply "crisis" — and you may develop a bit of sympathy for the people who stand accused today of ignoring the warnings about anything in particular. Far from complacent about potential perils, we suffer from peril gridlock.

Did all the attention and money devoted to protecting us from a terror attack after 9/11 leave us less prepared for a giant flood? Undoubtedly. And if the flood had come first, the opposite would be true. We, the citizens, would have demanded it, and then blamed the politicians and the "institutions" when it turned out to be a bad bet. There is no foresight. We fight the last war because hindsight is all we really have.

Not what one would expect from the LA Times, right? Light and not heat. Reason and reflection - and not dogma and didacticism.

So while Kinsley was not the right choice to head the Editorial and Opinion Pages - a signed column of his will always be at the top of my to read list.


Looks like there will no column for Kinsley at the LA Times - at least not for now. From LA Observed, the first paragraphs of Kinsley's e-mail to Times staffers:


From: Michael Kinsley
Sent: Tuesday, September 13, 2005 4:54 AM
Subject: local news

Hi. In case you haven't heard already, the Publisher is announcing this morning that I'm leaving the Los Angeles Times. The news stories a few weeks ago saying that I would be giving up managerial duties but staying with the paper were not wrong. That is what I wanted and what John Carroll wanted too. But Jeff wants a "clean break." He did offer to discuss at some future date the possibility of my continuing to write a column as a non-employee. And he raised the possibility of some consulting on web matters down the road.

This did not seem overly welcoming, and further inquiries by me and others have made clear that it wasn't intended to. For whatever reason, Jeff isn't merely uninterested in any future contribution I might make, but actively wants me gone. So I'm off, with some regret and some excitement, to the Washington Post, duties TBD but including the column. I hope it will continue to appear in the LA Times as well, but that is beyond my control.

The rest of the letter is at the above link.

No comments: