General Motors' attempt to intimidate the L.A. Times by pulling $10 million in ads "couldn't happen to a nicer newspaper, as far as I'm concerned," USC law professor and Fox News commentator Susan Estrich says in her latest syndicated column. She fires off a blast, saying she no longer subscribes and that the paper sent a reporter to do "a hatchet job" after her public spat over the op-ed page with Michael Kinsley.
There was a time, not so long ago, when I might have viewed General Motors' decision to stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times to protest how it has been covered editorially as a dangerous example of private efforts to stifle a free press. No more...Newspapers are nothing special anymore, and they have no one to blame for it but themselves. Especially the Los Angeles Times.
There is nothing fair about the way newspapers play when you're on the other side. That's why, even though I used to enjoy reading the much-respected auto columnist for the Times, as well as some of the other individual writers, I decided, like many in this community, to cancel my subscription...
While there are many fine people who work for the newspaper, I no longer think of it as a neutral arbiter of the news deserving of special constitutional protection. I think of the paper as a player in the political debate -- sometimes a bully, but always a powerful player, with a voice and a microphone, usually more powerful than anyone else's. Far from needing protection against the rest of us, it's the rest of us who often need protection against them, public figures and public companies included. If GM wants to get in the fight, great. We could use some help. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
She closes: "The Los Angeles Times can beat up on anybody it wants, but it doesn't matter if nobody's reading it, and there aren't any ads." The column runs in this week's L.A. Business Journal.