Friday's abrupt departure of longtime LATimes.com editor Richard Core was not the only involuntary separation that day. At least a handful of newsroom staffers were let go, apparently as part of a campaign to save costs or free up slots for new hiring. Core's exit, however, prompted an anonymous weekend email to the website staff complaining about the move and bemoaning the site's future direction. New website editor Joel Sappell responds below (and is pictured surfing in Indonesia.)
From: cassandra doright
Sent: 10/16/2005 12:28 PM
Subject: the myth of latimes.com
We have received news of Richard Core's departure and would like to take this opportunity to state the obvious.
We recall that under Mr. Core's leadership, the website worked long hours to explore valid new methods of journalistic storytelling. Now, it seems that there is little more than a kind of knee jerk response to latest trends. Have blogs, for example, done anything more than to allow a few third string analysts to ramble? Does anyone think for an instant that such digital masturbation has added to public discourse? Wikitorials were a motherfucking disaster. Podcasts of travel pieces? Please. In the end, the great contribution of current management is to have increased the girth of the site-- an admirable goal to be sure, but one that has little to do with journalism. Donde es Enrique?
No doubt our talented and well-meaning new boss will speak often of editorial focus and group hugs with the print side. And he will tell us that he has much to learn. How right he will be! In their celestial wisdom, management has opted to dispense with a decade of institutional memory and technical expertise. We recall that Mr. Core was actually capable of, you know, doing stuff on the site. This is clearly not a prerequisite for management. But it certainly comes in handy when there is, you know, actual news.
The men who have recently reshuffled the deck chairs will take no heed of this, however, nor of any other wild-ass scheme that goes awry in coming months. Because this was their choice. And Mr. Core was not. Then one day soon, some semi-bright guy on the third floor (or perhaps in Seattle) will ask, "Hey, why doesn't OUR site have holograms?" And the cycle will begin anew.
The terse corporate language in last week's memo displayed a dankness of spirit that does not bode well for the future. There were a dozen kinder and more dignified ways this could have been handled, especially for an employee of Mr. Core's caliber and fidelity. But current management lacks the character and acumen to have considered such options. Perhaps the note came at the direction of attorneys, in which case it becomes an act of cowardice.
Do current circumstances damage our morale? Who cares? There is no value in morale, nor ambition, nor creativity. Certainly there is no real value in hard work. Or loyalty. Except, of course, to one another.
Sappell replied by email Sunday afternoon and cc'd the entire web staff. It's after the jump:
From: Sappell, Joel
Sent: Sunday, October 16, 2005 1:20 PM
To: 'cassandra doright '
Subject: RE: the myth of latimes.com
Obviously, you care greatly about both Richard and the future of the website, as do I. And I certainly understand your skepticism. But be assured, I see latimes.com as a serious journalistic undertaking. Otherwise, I wouldn't be there.
If you care to emerge from the shadows of email and talk personally, I'm always available.