Friday, November 11, 2005

LA Times Editorial Page Changes.

First the big news from Kevin at LAOBSERVED; besides Robert Scheer being let go - editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez is also fired.

The editorial cartoonist that liberals love to hate, Michael Ramirez, is not part of the new Times op-ed lineup announced today by Editor of the Editorial Pages Andrés Martinez. You might consider it the flip side of the earlier news about Robert Scheer, the longtime columnist who conservatives love to hate

Now Scheer, I can understand. I always love to read an intelligent defense of ideas I do not hold, but Scheer - besides his inability to get his facts straight - blusters rather than reasons his way though his arguments. Plenty of fire, but too little light.

But Ramirez surprises me. He is a brilliant cartoonist. And while I do not always agree with his viewpoints - particularly on abortion (and it would not surprise me if that was part of the reason for his removal) - he always made me think about any issue he addressed and many of his images still remain in my mind. Both fire and light were always present. So while I can understand the stated decision to not have just one editorial cartoonist - which does make sense, to completely lose a talent such as his... is inexplicable.

Kevin Roderick may be right in saying that firing Ramirez is to make the firing of Scheer more palatable to the left. That done, lets look at the new line-up of columnists. And after I looked through this very often distinguished list, my first response was... why bother?

I say this because with subscribers rapidly vanishing from the Times and the paper being under increasing attack for not having an LA voice (or even making an effort to reach out out to the community) - this line-up completely baffles me. This list simply does not even attempt to address or acknowledge why the paper has lost touch with its readers - much less attempt to do anything about it.

I will go through them one by one.

1. Gregory Rodriguez - Great! I get to start with an easy one. He is a wonderful addition to the line-up. He's got the LA thing down, the Latino thing down, and he's bright and a pretty good writer to boot. Does cover a somewhat specific aspect of LA, though, rather than a whole picture columnist, but in his case - that 's fine. A perfect Sunday columnist.

2. Also on Sunday, New Republic Senior Editor, Jon Chait - Washington wonk. And that's the problem. A solid writer who knows how to support his views but... I can already read him in a lot of places. I don't need the LA Times to do that and I do not ever recall reading anything by him that I wasn't also reading someplace else. For Sunday - why now a new, unique voice? Someone who is not saying the same thing in the same way that everyone is saying?

3. Niall Ferguson - now this is a tough one. I am a huge fan. He is brilliant historian and he says things no one else is saying. He will be a must read of mine. So to me - a grand slam. But about the average reader of the LA Times? Will they care about what he has to say about Realpolitick? I think he might be a better fit on Sunday with other columnists so that people can gradually discover him when they read the Sunday paper.

4. Joel Stein. Now on Tuesday - and you thought Monday was the worst day of the week. Actually, about a month ago - Joel did a brilliant column and I may even get around to posting that still only half-spell checked post. But even if he was a consistently entertaining writer, the LA Times' conceit of having people not from LA writing about LA is an experiment that has proven disastrous - and my prediction is - will continue to be disastrous, with only very rare exceptions.

5. Max Boot, Wednesday - Ex-Wall Street Journal writer, always worth reading, but... there are several others whom I would rather read who deliver the same views. I don't see why it is necessary to go back east to get someone with his viewpoint.

6. Erin Aubry Kaplan - Really like her as a writer, has a very specific LA viewpoint and is in many ways an excellent choice. Again, my main problem with this line-up is that there is no one who is really covering LA as a whole. It would be great to have a half-dozen Erin Aubry Kaplan's to cover different facets of the LA experience - but why can't we also have a few writers who actually look at all of LA as a city?

7. Jonah Goldberg - Again excellent writer and really knows how to sell his positions. And more intune with LA readers than Max Boot, in many ways. Will read his column each week.
But if there are going to be two conservative columnists - why can't one of them be from LA and be able to opine on LA as well as just national issues?

8. Patt Morrison. The only question here is... why here? She is a long time LA writer who should be in every section of the paper - so why tether her to a column? It makes no sense. She needs to be all over the paper and in depth. As it stands, it appears this means there will be a lot less Morrison in the LA Times, which is a bad thing.

UPDATE -- According to LAOBSERVED, Patt Morrison is now only in the LAT once a week so tehr is no change in her status contemplated. LAO also correctly spelled her name with two t's as I shall try to - once again - attempt to remember to do. My original point, though, that there is too little of ... Patt... remains.

9. Rosa Brooks - Friday. Now this one is a total mystery . From day one she has been an embarrassment to the LA Times. The idea that there are not a hundred writers in LA who can not do a better job than whatever it is she is supposed to be doing - is an insult to every writer in this city.

10. Meghan Daum - Saturday - and billed as a local writer since she has lived in LA for... almost two years. They just don't get it - do they?

However, there is one problem. She is absolutely... alas!... brilliant; a great writer with a seductive prose style that makes me not even care where she is from or what it is she is writing about ... I just want to wallow in her words.

Not to mention she's pretty hot looking. Yes, LA will love her. She has a unique voice (and not so bad legs, either) and - hopefully - she might even someday develop a great LA voice.

OK - out of the ten how many of them are new, wonderful uniquely LA voices who will tell us all about the great city we live in?

None, of course.

And that is the problem. Every LA writer getting a weekly column either already writes for the Times or has written for the Times. And - still - no effort is being made to get a more than once a week column that is written about Los Angeles. As usual, Los Angeles remains the very last thing that Los Angeles Times is interested in covering.

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