Former Los Angeles Times staff writer Evan Maxwell left daily journalism two decades ago to fashion a successful career as a romance novelist with his wife Ann Maxwell. Now living in Sedona, Maxwell has recently been tapping out critical emails and web pieces about his old newspaper. Most recently he took a turn as a guest blogger at Patterico's Pontifications, the blog most dedicated to ripping the Times.
Patterico and I connected because of our mutual interest in my alma mater, the Olí Grey Lady, El Tiempo de Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times. I served fifteen years in the bullpen of that tree-killing institution and I admit it, I got a great big kick out of using that bully pulpit to exercise my insights and spread my blather across a million plus billboards each morning.
But I always blathered with the secret knowledge that I didnít really own the pulpit. Therefore I was constrained, by editors, other reporters and ultimately by the Great Otis himself, the late publisher during my era, Otis Chandler. These multiple censors, if you will, were built-in filters of my work. I covered crime, and I discovered quickly that certain types of crime were regarded as unworthy of coverage: stories about Latino prison gangs were excoriated by some of my colleagues as examples of ďinstitutional racism;Ē Dorothy Buffum Chandler didnít like truly disgusting homicides with her morning eggs; a certain key member of the editorial board believed police chases were inherently evil exercises in testosterone and should be discouraged and ridiculed.
Those are the kinds of subtle and not-so-subtle influences that all reporters, even the most fearless and intrepid ones, face each time they sit down at the typewriter (how quaint an antique) or the computer keyboard. Ultimately, I got sick of battling those influences and went off to write novels and nonfiction with my wife and by myself. I left the newsroom in 1984 and havenít been back, even to visit, in almost twenty years.
But the newsroom hasnít really changed all that much. For better or worse, or both, newsrooms are still the same slightly inbred, always entertaining and fascinating places they once were...
More over at Patterico's place. Maxwell actually signed in there March 31 but I just caught on.
News of another Times watcher: Ken Reich's blog Take Back the Times has been off the air since March 18 due to illness.