The Times' new media reporter, James Rainey, steps between Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley with a piece in today's Calendar. The brouhaha that Rainey covers began as a debate about why so few women are published on the op-ed page, but Estrich's tactics soon overwhelmed her message. He writes:
The confrontation might not have drawn so much attention if the old Harvard classmates did not hold such high profiles, in Los Angeles and nationally....
Kinsley, 54, said the fight with Estrich has been a painful distraction from efforts he said the newspaper had already been making to bring more women to the op-ed pages.
"I was on the case already. And now you feel a little queasy about pushing for more women because you think you are being used and you are giving this jerk a victory," Kinsley said. "I have to force myself to sort of look beyond that and do what we were doing anyway."
Estrich, 52, apologized for raising the issue of Kinsley's health, saying she was only trying to "warn an old friend what was being said about him around town." She said that misstep should not be a distraction from her larger cause.
"The minute people begin to count the number of columns by women, [newspapers] can't begin to justify the outcome," she said in an interview this week. "Because the fact is that 90% of the talent is not in men's hands, but 90% of the columns are."
She seemed near tears in an interview, saying she never intended the fight to get so personal. She blamed the operators of her website for improperly posting comments about Kinsley's mental health and contended she didn't think e-mails to Drudge and others in the media would get into the public domain.
But she also accused Kinsley of "playing small and petty" by, among other things, ignoring her demands and then recently publishing two columns by her ex-husband. (Martin Kaplan is associate dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication.) And she said the newspaper continues to dwell on her comments about Kinsley as a tactic — to avoid talking about the failure to give a larger platform to women.
By the way, the story says that the L.A. Times has published more women on the op-ed page this year than the New York Times or Washington Post. Also, Kinsley discloses that he tried to add Barbara Ehrenreich as a regular commentator and says that local essayist and New America Foundation fellow Gregory Rodriguez is "coming to work for" the opinion side of the paper.