Scheer: LAT going 'bland and safe'

Robert Scheer continues his exit tour, tossing rhetorical bomblets at the Times for dropping his syndicated column. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, posts some of Scheer's comments to a weekend gathering of readers. Parenthetical comments in the quoted text below are hers. [He also was on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now program this morning; transcript here.] Scheer does drop a nugget of news in Nation talk: the San Francisco Chronicle (where his wife Narda Zacchino is a top editor) picked up his column. Scheer also predicts that the Times will lay off more than seventy editorial staffers this week; all I can add to that is that there are strong rumblings of imminent and deep budget cuts, including buyouts and possibly layoffs.

According to vanden Heuvel, Scheer had this to say:

This was a stupid management decision, a bad marketing decision...Let's go bland and safe.

The publisher is a wise guy accountant, a bean counter from Chicago. These guys come in from Chicago. They don't know the community, and buying the LA Times may be illegal. The Chicago Tribune already owns a TV station in same market and they're going to need a waiver request which comes up next year. The publisher/bean counter's Pasadena golf buddies probably warned him about me--that flaming leftie. Now, (Times founder) Otis Chandler was no liberal but he understood his community. The paper is in decline. They have 300,000 fewer readers now than when I went to work there nearly thirty years ago....The Times needed me more than I need it...I always have two or three balls in the air at same time...That's why I teach full-time at USC's Journalism school, do my radio show, write books. It's the only way to live. I've been preparing for this moment for 30 years. I wrote this column for 13 years and never missed a deadline.

More after the jump.

Probably the main reason they got rid of me was O'Reilly and Limbaugh made a living out of attacking me, pounding, pounding away and doing mass mailing campaigns against me and using me as a punching bag. But I'm still standing; the paper may collapse....Would never go back to LA Times, and I start at the San Francisco Chronicle next week. They called Wednesday to offer me a column. And my syndicate stood behind me, and the syndicate's editor, a conservative, was quoted in Editor & Publisher saying he was 100 percent behind me. And it's the same syndicate which runs O'Reilly's column.


They may own the paper but they don't own the readers. And LA is the greatest city in the world, and it deserves a great newspaper. Send e-mails and make them aware that if they want to keep readers, they got to be smarter. Let them know readers don't like being treated with contempt. I know there's shock in the Times building; every switchboard jammed, e-mails streaming in. (One estimate is that close to 10,000 e-mails have come in; on Saturday, the paper ran a series of articulate, intelligent, reasoned and serious letters protesting Scheer's ouster.) I hear the publisher is walking around in a daze. Didn't anticipate these protest, the level of outrage. Every complaint you send will give space to others who want to do bold, brave reporting.

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