That memo comes around again


The media column by R. J. Smith in the September issue of Los Angeles visits with L.A. Times editor John Carroll and takes a read on the fallout from his May 22 memo chiding the paper for occasional liberal bias. The column is not yet online (though you can read the memo here, along with my original post and some of the reaction here and here, as it was L.A. Observed that first reported on its existence.) Smith finds that Carroll had an unintended run as a national conservative hero.

To all his new friends on the right, Carroll had done the equivalent of pulling the curtain up on the machinery, or revealing the secret formula to the Colonel's chicken. He'd acknowledged what they long perceived as the Times's political tilt. Overnight the Times itself became news, and Carrol had created -- accidentally, or as many at the Times think, intentionally -- the biggest controversy of his three-year reign...

"I do think that we, like every paper, slip every now and then in trying to play things down the middle," Carroll says. "And the slips more often than not are to the liberal side. You seldom see a story in which there's something you might consider a flagrant bias on the conservative side.

"I also think that a paper that's situated in a place that has a particular political predisposition -- and Los Angeles tends to be to the liberal side of American politics -- has an obligation to present to its readers a broader world. As a reader of a newspaper I would be offended if my paper only played back my own biases and my own politics."

Carroll subsequently apologized to the staff writer who was singled out in the memo, but Smith finds that the missive itself has had little lasting resonance in the newsroom. One editor says, comparing it to Carroll's later directive on grammar, "I think the verb memo has inspired far more fear and loathing in this building."

The liberal bias memo's effect on L.A. Observed, however, was enduring -- as David Shaw covers in his Sunday LAT "Media Matters" column (link here when it goes online), which is all about me and the blog. The memo coverage got picked up everywhere and put L.A. Observed on the blogging map. I tossed out an outdated stat when Shaw and I spoke a couple of weeks ago, so just to update, this week the average traffic was more than 5,000 hits and 1,700 unique visitors a day. It falls way off on weekends, so if you are reading this -- go outside.

Shaw proclaims me to be neither ideologue nor egomaniac, and not noticeably partisan or terribly passionate. I might argue the last point, and others would surely argue them all, but I can't complain about the story. I'd just add there are tons of great blog writers in L.A., with more traffic and more to say than I do. Some of them are listed on the right side. Give 'em a read if you don't already.

More by Kevin Roderick:
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Last bastion of free parking? Loyola Marymount to charge students
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