By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Have you two talked about some of the major complaints about theLAT? Did he talk to you at all about what is perceived as this right-wing feeling that the paper is just wacko liberal and doesn’t take them into account at all?
We talked about the philosophy of the editorial page and what the guiding principles are. And the other is the issue of balance on the Op-Ed pages. They’re sort of two separate issues. Do you provide a real diversity of voices to outsiders, and is there balance there? And the second one is what’s the institution’s world-view. So, yeah, we talked at great length about both of those things.
And is there a feeling that theLATwants to bring in a lot more right-wing voices?
Um, no, I wouldn’t put it like that. In the last year, we’ve been building up a roster of Op-Ed page columnists, and a lot of this is offering a column to people on an experimental basis for a given period of time, and then revisiting those offers. I think when Michael arrived at the beginning of last summer, the Op-Ed page maybe had three columnists, Bob Scheer, Max Boot and Patt Morrison. And we’ve really ramped up. Everybody agreed that was a priority. As we round out this roster of columnists, I think there should be a rough balance there. I say that, but on the other hand, I actually like columnists who are hard to pigeonhole. If you have columnists who are easy to pigeonhole, it’s nice if they roughly balance each other out.
Are you aware that phone solicitations by theL.A. Timesin recent weeks to try and get subscribers — and it’s clear they’re reading from a script since I’ve had this told to me over and over and over again by friends and acquaintances — ask if you’re angry about the political content of the paper. And before you’ve even answered, they go, “I want you to know that we’re bringing in a lot more conservative voices and conservative columnists.” Which frankly shocked me.
I didn’t know that.
I’m not aware of that.
From the anecdotal evidence I’ve got, theL.A. Timeswas very hurt by the Schwarzenegger groping investigation being published on the eve of the recall election. Conservatives saw agendas. It pissed off a lot of them, and there’s been this real attack mode by conservatives against the paper since then.
Are you aware of any of this?
Not too much in the sense that I wasn’t here.
But it’s unbelievable what conservatives think of theL.A. Times.
Does it weigh heavily on me? No. About Arnold, mainstream media journalists tend to underestimate the appeal of non-traditional politicians. I saw it in New York too where the editorial page was asleep through the whole Bloomberg phenomenon. So setting aside the whole firestorm over the coverage of the groping allegations, editorial pages of all stripes are slow to pick up on the appeal of non-traditional politicians – and Arnold being a movie star, it was going to be all the more. So when I first got here, I did think I wanted to take the Arnold phenomenon seriously to the extent I felt there was a real mandate there in this extraordinary recall, and that people did look to him to change things dramatically, and that we needed to be mindful of that.
And he’s just been a total disaster.
It’s easy to argue that he’s botched this up 10 different ways. But when I first got here, it was still the second half of his honeymoon, and I wanted to be slightly deferential to the notion that he had a real mandate. And one of my first pushes was that we needed to start writing editorials supporting this constitutional amendment to enable foreign-born Americans to run for president. I said the principle in my mind is unassailable. This goes back to my criticism of many editorial pages being too tactical. I found some hesitation because people said, well, we’d be helping Schwarzenegger. I said I don’t care. We should be about the principle, and if it helps a Democrat, or helps a Republican, we should do it anyway.
And when it came time for the presidential election, you didn’t endorse.
The L.A. Times hasn’t endorsed since, what, 1972 or something? We did want to endorse, Kinsley and I, but the decision had already been made not to.
No. It was actually a weird case of the new owners erring on the side of being too deferential to the quirky traditions of the natives. Because every other Tribune paper endorses, and they go both ways. So I suspect that will change. And clearly we were not pulling any punches in the editorials we were writing about the election. The day before the election, I wrote an editorial calling this a failed presidency. It might not have had an endorsement logo, but it was pretty clear.