Baquet: Respect not love


L.A. Times managing editor Dean Baquet spoke this week at a gathering in his hometown of New Orleans and began to address the fallout over the paper's groping stories on Schwarzenegger. The story puts the loss of readers at 10,000. Tidbits:

Does managing editor Dean Baquet regret his decision to run the story? Not one bit, he said Wednesday at a luncheon in his native New Orleans.

Recounting the paper's controversial decision, Baquet said the fallout was "swift and angry." His first e-mail of the day, which arrived in the predawn hours of the day the story broke, read simply: "You bastard," said Baquet, keynote speaker at the annual fund-raiser for the Bureau of Governmental Research, a nonprofit watchdog group.

By the time Baquet arrived at the office, he had hundreds of messages, most expressing similar sentiments. On TV, conservative commentators brayed that the Times was a tool of the left, and even nonpartisan critics questioned the paper's judgment...

To him, the episode sheds light on a newspaper's role in the community: to be a cranky watchdog.

"I think the newspaper should kick you around sometimes," Baquet said. "It should make you mad. It should upset the community. I'd prefer you respect us than love us."

Some commentators worry newspapers are losing their audiences, a fear that in Baquet's view can produce timidity on the part of editors. But he said papers owe it to their readers to ask the tough questions -- and publish hard-hitting stories -- even if that means being unpopular...

"Our job is to ask tough questions of government," he said. "We should be tough, we should be believed, we should be vital. And that's a whole lot better than being loved."

Via Romenesko

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