Letter from Eric Slater

The fired L.A. Times reporter emailed this note today, giving his side of how his departure from the paper was handled. Slater again denies making things up and says he will release supporting records, including raw notes, travel receipts and the various edited versions of the story out of Chico that got him in trouble. (Added afterthought:) At the weekend's book festival, there was some talk among the Timesians that even before this incident, Slater's stock had slipped with top editors when he turned down a posting to the Las Vegas bureau.

Dear Friends and Family,

I could not be more grateful for your support during this strange time following the publication of my story about hazing deaths at Chico State University. Retaining lawyers, giving rather than conducting interviews, having no email address--all these things and more are new to me.

Your calls and notes have made me feel not only not alone but with more friends than I’d realized.

On Monday, April 17, following a brief investigation, LA Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet told me that either I could resign or I would be fired. Because I could not reach my attorney at 8:30 a.m., I agreed to resign. I told Dean that I would meet with my counsel and draft a letter of resignation that I would file as soon as possible. Everyone agreed that was the way to proceed.

A few hours later, a reporter for another paper phoned me to ask for a comment on my resignation. The Times, this journalist said, was reporting that I had resigned. She was right. Before I was given time to write my letter of resignation, the LA Times was reporting to other journalists (and Dean confirmed this personally to me) that I had indeed resigned.

Following weeks of odd inquiries, thinly veiled threats about the impending ruin of my career, inappropriate questions about my health and personal life, I asked my attorney if I could retract my resignation. He encouraged me to do just that.

I did. The Times fired me.

Had I made anything up, had I not gone to Chico, had I anything to hide, I would have done the only honorable thing left to me: vanished.

People have asked why I have not released records to defend myself. The answer is that the LA Times confiscated my laptop, corporate AmEx, notes and receipts. I have just received the notes and hard copy receipts back from the Times.

In the near future, I will release any and all documents pertaining to the story, including original notes, AmEx and other receipts, as well as a dozen or so versions of the story as it was written, edited and rewritten.

Reporters and friends also have asked me what I am seeking, why I retained a lawyer, am I going to file a lawsuit. I have no plans to file suit. The LA Times brought in its top attorney so I brought in the best attorney in LA for someone in my position. I would have been a fool not to hire counsel.

I want, primarily, my reputation restored so that I can make a living as a writer. It’s the only thing I know how to do.

(Please consider reading the Washington Post column by Howard Kurtz that is in today, April 25.) [L.A. Observed link]

I have spent the past weeks answering questions. I will continue to answer any and all questions that I am able, pending the outcome of our own inquiry.

I asked from the Times only for fairness in the investigation and equity in my punishment—that is, to consider the mistakes others have committed at the LAT and elsewhere and treat me accordingly.

Again, thank you for your dozens of calls and emails of support. My very best to you all.


Eric Slater


Previously: Slater defiant

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