KCRW's Warren Olney kept asking for a reason why the Times would shed one of its few recognizable voices, but Andrés Martinez would never specifically say why he dumped Bob Scheer's column. ("Which Way, L.A.?" audio here. Note KCRW is also home to Scheer's Left, Right & Center.) Martinez would only say that Scheer is "not currently the strongest progressive voice on the op-ed page" and that others write better columns—but wouldn't say who he regards as stronger. Martinez did say the paper expected the outcry from Scheer's fans and is unmoved by it: "We don't do these things lightly but we decided it was time to make a change." As for Scheer's claim that the Times buckled to criticism from Bill O'Reilly, Martinez says he considers it "a badge of honor" that the Fox commentator attacks the paper. In an exchange I took as the most telling, Martinez at one point called Scheer's exit a "generational transition." Olney picked up on it and asked if the move was calculated to appeal to younger readers, which Martinez denied. Martinez, 39 when he became the top opinion editor this summer, is seen by some at the paper as pushing to remake the Times into a younger place. Writes a key staffer who heard Martinez on KCRW: "I couldn't help thinking that what's really going on here is part of a sort of GenX uprising."
As of today, Scheer's syndicated column is based at the San Francisco Chronicle. John Diaz, the editorial page editor there, writes:
Many readers have been telling us they want to see more of Scheer's distinct and often provocative perspective on state, national and international issues. As part of our arrangement as his new home paper, Scheer's column will be edited through The Chronicle and we will have a chance to discuss ideas with him — though he will make the final call on topics for his column, which will continue to be distributed through the Creators Syndicate.
Now that Martinez (in photo) is emerging as one of the better known names at the paper, those with a curiosity about him might read his bio at LATimes.com and this long Nikki Finke interview in the LA Weekly last month. The summary:
Raised in Chihuahua by a Mexican father and American mother, Martinez earned a B.A. in history from Yale in 1988, an M.A. in Russian history from Stanford in 1989 and a J.D. from Columbia in 1992. He clerked for a federal judge in Dallas and practiced law, then wrote editorials for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and reported for the Wall Street Journal. He was hired as a New York Times editorial writer in 2000. (His wife got a job at the Center for Reproductive Rights.) At the NYT, he says he was thought to be at the conservative end of the editorial board, but he calls himself a social liberal. He came to the LAT as editorial page editor in September 2004 and wanted to endorse in the presidential race but was turned down; the day before the election, he nonetheless wrote an editorial describing Bush's "failed presidency." Martinez is the author of 24/7: Living It Up and Doubling Down in the New Las Vegas, a first-person account of blowing $50,000 in Vegas.
"The L.A. Times is more influential in L.A. than The New York Times is in New York."
"I loved living in New York, but I always found the place a bit provincial. I just never bought into the notion that it’s the center of the universe. I thought California was a more important place. And I was intrigued by L.A., though I confess I had not spent that much time here."
"If you are going to have any credibility, you need to remain intellectually honest and consistent over time and not be overly tactical and partisan."
"I am not someone who believes that you can be a full member of the American community without speaking English, which is why I have qualms about open-ended bilingual education. But if it's important for immigrants to learn English in order to assimilate into our society, it's equally important for all Americans — regardless of their ethnicity — to be exposed to foreign languages in order to assimilate into the broader world."
"If the sound of foreign languages and cultural diversity makes you so twitchy, maybe California is not the place for you."
"People these days crave absolute truths. Editorials may not quite deliver that, but a good editorial page does provide readers with a filter through which to interpret the news and all that chatter. The filter consists of a coherent worldview and an adherence to certain core principles."
Seipp on Scheer: At National Review Online