For the newsroom at the L.A. Times, the most upsetting parts of last night's "Frontline" episode on the paper's future were remarks by the vice chairman of Ariel Capital Management, which owns 6% of the Tribune. He disparaged foreign and national reporting by the Times as a losing effort and said, basically, that the paper's best hope was to become a superior local and regional paper. Times editor Jim O'Shea was cut out of the entire show, in favor of extended footage of his predecessor, Dean Baquet, and publisher David Hiller. But O'Shea sent out a newsroom memo this afternoon trying to cut down the PBS report and soften the blow of the Tribune investor's words.
From: Wolinsky, Leo
Sent: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 3:10 PM
Subject: On behalf of Jim O'Shea
Unfortuately [sic] I am not in the newsroom today. I am in New York for the L.A. Times Book Prizes. I did want to address the Frontline piece involving The Los Angeles Times, though.
I found it to be simplistic and excessively negative about the future of the newspaper industry and the L.A. Times. The piece lacked balance and sophistication and relied on stereotypes.
I know there was also concern about quotes from Charles Bobrinskoy at Ariel Capital. Mr. Bobrinskoy knows as much about newspapers and the needs and news appetites of the readers of The Los Angeles Times as I know about astrophysics. Everyone should keep in mind that "analysts" of the stock market are the same ones who advised people to buy stocks such as Enron. I could fill the Grand Canyon with the misinformation that people such as Bobrinskoy have spread. So I think everyone should look at his comments in that context. I have never heard anyone at Tribune Company advocate that The Los Angeles Times should become a paper without foreign or national bureaus. I doubt he represents anyone's views but his own. I certainly don't think he is right and I would never have agreed to be your editor if such a preposterous proposal were part of any deal.
The Los Angeles Times is a great newspaper with a great staff. We face challenges, and they won't be easy to overcome. But we will do it. We will figure out solutions to these problems and lead the industry to a bright and better future. Thanks so much for all of your hard work.
Here was Hiller's advance spin yesterday. By the way, it may be moot now, but Eli Broad admitted in the piece that, yes, he would weigh in on editorial matters in the arts and culture if he owned the Times.