Why Geffen would be bad for LAT

Kim Masters writes at Slate that David Geffen is the wrong man to run the L.A. Times, taking issue with the position voiced earlier this month by Times Hollywood writers Patrick Goldstein and Jon Horn, who rather liked the idea of working for Geffen. Masters says:

With plenty of respect to both of those reporters, what could they be thinking? Is life under the Tribune Co. so nightmarish that Geffen seems like a dream? Both of them should know what Geffen can be like.

I've heard from multiple sources in L.A., including an editor at the Times, that Geffen told a Timesman that were he to succeed in buying the paper, his first order of business would be firing a reporter in the business section who had crossed him. If Geffen has that on his to-do list—much less at the top—he is the wrong man at the wrong Times. Yes, he has a canny eye for quality, from Joni Mitchell to Jackson Pollock. But he could make Wendy McCaw, the multimillionaire owner who has decimated the Santa Barbara News-Press, look Pulitzer-obsessed.

Those who have dealt with Geffen while covering this business should find that obvious. Geffen is famously vindictive.

It's just getting good:

One reporter now at the Times once called me in tears after an encounter with him on the phone (one truly has to be on the receiving end of his verbal savagery to appreciate it). And does anyone think he'll tolerate articles that annoy him or his friends? And he has lots of friends—from Hollywood to Washington, from Steven Spielberg to Hillary Clinton.

Maybe Geffen has changed, but that seems doubtful. It was tragic when Tom King, the author of The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood, died suddenly in 2003 at the age of 39. Certainly, as a student of Geffen, King would have been fascinated by the notion of Geffen as newspaper savior—and he would have been fascinating on the subject.

Maybe King would have thought it was a fine idea. Or maybe he would have told, again, how even those people who had Geffen's permission to talk to him didn't because they were too scared. Maybe he'd recount how Geffen agreed to cooperate with his book and then, after perhaps a year, went berserk when King tried to talk to Geffen's brother, Mitchell. In The Operator, King reported how Geffen screamed at him, threatened to stop cooperating with the book, and insisted that King had agreed never to interview his only sibling. King responded that he'd made no such agreement and reminded Geffen that just a week earlier, he'd directed King to ask his brother for an answer to a question. After that, King did not get to interview Geffen again.


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