L.A. Times editorial page editor Andrés Martinez took the unusual step of publishing an editor's note today to explain the paper's decision to drop Robert Scheer from the roll of op-ed columnists. He acknowledges hundreds of calls, letters and emails in protest, and writes "We are grateful — humbled — that readers care so deeply about the content of these opinion pages and the columnists who appear on them." He doesn't, however, ever explain why Scheer was cut. "Patronizing and insulting to [readers'] intelligence," responds Stephen D. Burgard, a former Times editorial writer who directs the Northeastern University School of Journalism. (Journalist David Ehrenstein mocks the editor's note on his blog.)
Meanwhile, the space for Martinez's note was available because Scheer surprised the Times and didn't file his Tuesday column. When he was axed, the announcement said that Scheer would continue running until the end of the year. This week's column is billed as coming tomorrow in the Huffington Post. Scheer and LAT op-ed editor Nick Goldberg are both aboard The Nation's cruise to Mexico today and reportedly had words about the missing column. (Arianna and Goldberg's wife, Amy Wilentz, are also on the cruise.)
[Mystery solved?: A source close to Scheer says the Times created confusion about whether the column was killed immediately. Although the press release said it would continue for the rest of the year, the Times ran a news story last week specifying that cartoonist Michael Ramirez would stay through 2005 and implying that Scheer would not. "He assumed that was it, it was over," the source emails. 6:35 pm]
Also: Martinez gave a long interview to Warren Olney about the Scheer situation that will air this evening on Which Way, L.A.? KCRW or KCRW.com at 7 pm...Either 300 (organizers) or 55 (the LAT) pickets showed up outside the Times this afternoon to protest Scheer's departure...Media Matters has begun "calling for action" to support the columnist.
* Updated post